Photo courtesy of Luis C. Tejo
Scientists Baffled by Rapid Spread of PFCAs
Scientists now believe that the environmental and health risks posed by PFCAs may equal or even exceed those from PCB and DDT—but they don’t know how the compounds are spreading so quickly.
Heavy concentrations of fluorinated polymers have been found in the blood of seals and polar bears in the Arctic, far from any possible industrial source. Concentrations in seals are doubling every five years, a phenomenal rate, according to Scott Mabury, a scientist at the University of Toronto.
PFCAs: Pervasive and Persistent
PFCAs have been linked to cancer and other developmental effects in animal experiments, and the toxic chemicals are becoming increasingly pervasive. PFCAs are often detected in the air and household dust, and scientists believe they will remain in the soil and elsewhere for hundreds of years.
Despite the emerging risks of PFCAs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is still debating how to classify the chemicals in terms of their relationship to cancer in humans.
Meanwhile, scientists continue to debate how the chemicals are reaching the Arctic and other far-flung locations. While some researchers believe that ocean currents are responsible for spreading PFCAs, Mabury and others disagree.
"It has to be spread by the atmosphere,” Mabury told The Toronto Star. “It would take decades for these chemicals to reach the Arctic through the oceans."