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Forever chemicals (PFAS)

Why is it in the news?

  • A study conducted by IIT Madras revealed the presence of ‘forever chemicals’ (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in Chennai lakes.

More about the news

  • PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals widely used in consumer products globally since the 1950s.
  • They are found in everyday items such as non-stick cookware, upholstery, food packaging, water or stain-resistant coatings, and industrial materials.
  • PFAS are known for their resistance to water, grease, and heat, and they do not break down or degrade easily in the environment.
  • However, PFAS can contaminate soil and water sources and accumulate in fish and wildlife, posing risks to ecosystems.
  • These chemicals may adversely affect reproduction, thyroid function, the immune system, and cause liver damage.

Measures to be taken

  • PFAS can be broken down into harmless components using sodium hydroxide (lye), an inexpensive compound used in soap production.
  • Incineration is another method for destroying PFAS, with temperatures around 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,730 degrees Fahrenheit) being effective. However, suitable incinerators are scarce, and the process is energy-intensive.

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