The arrival of Covid-19 has shone a light on air quality in schools, offices and other indoor public spaces but it’s not just Covid-19 we need to focus on. There are a number of other contaminants floating around that also pose a risk, particularly for young children.
Scientists from the Green Science Policy Institute have been looking at air quality in a variety of different settings. Their findings point to alarming levels of previously undetected chemicals, known as PFAS, in schools, offices and homes.
What are PFAS?
PFAS, also known as Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, refers to a group of chemicals that can be found in products such as water-resistant clothing, stain resistant furnishing, carpeting, food containers, cleaning products, and many other everyday items.
The risk of ‘forever chemicals’
PFAS are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’, as they do not break down and therefore hang around in the environment forever. Found in our food, our water, our soil, and even our bodies, PFAS are literally everywhere. And even though many PFAS are no longer manufactured in the US, they are still used internationally, so can be imported.
We may be exposed to more chemicals than we realize
This latest study, published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, used a new technique to measure levels of chemicals in the air, and it was this new process that resulted in much higher readings.
In order to take accurate air quality readings, the team attached a number of polyethylene sheets to ceilings, in nine carpeted kindergarten classrooms, one home, the storage room of an outdoor clothing store and two carpet stores. The PFAS levels in many of the kindergarten classrooms were found to be higher than the store selling outdoor clothing treated with PFAS. Their findings suggest that previous measurements of air quality have significantly underestimated our exposure to certain chemicals.
According to study author, Rainer Lohmann,
“Our study shows that indoor air, including dust, is another source of exposure to potentially harmful forever chemicals.
And Tom Bruton, a co-author and senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute is clear in his view,
“As long as they continue to be used in products, we’ll all be eating, drinking, and breathing PFAS …..We need to turn off the tap and stop all unnecessary uses of PFAS as soon as possible.”
PFAS have been linked to cancer and thyroid disease
Despite the fact that these chemicals linger in our environment, relatively little is known about them. However, experts who took part in a lawsuit against the chemical company DuPont in 2005, found there was a ‘probable link’ between exposure to PFAS, kidney cancer and thyroid disease. This is not a chemical we want in our classrooms, offices and homes.
Austin Air. Keeping you safe!!
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