The Legacy of PFAS: Understanding its Impact on Long-Term Health

The Legacy of PFAS: Understanding its Impact on Long-Term Health

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have earned notoriety as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and their ubiquitous presence in everyday products.

While PFAS have been lauded for their water and grease-resistant properties, their long-term health implications have increasingly become a cause for concern.

In this article, we explore the silent threat of PFAS exposure, shedding light on its profound and potentially devastating long-term effects on human health.

Understanding PFAS

PFAS are synthetic compounds known for their robust carbon-fluorine bonds, making them highly resistant to environmental breakdown. They have been extensively used in a wide array of consumer products, including non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and food packaging.

The widespread usage of PFAS has led to their infiltration into soil and water sources. Consequently, this contamination of drinking water supplies exposes populations worldwide to their toxic effects.

As per a report by The Guardian, PFAS contamination is alarmingly prevalent in the US drinking water system. Approximately 70 million people are affected by exposure to these “forever chemicals”.

Shockingly, this figure excludes those relying on private wells, with an estimated additional 8 million individuals facing PFAS exposure.

Despite ongoing testing efforts, only about one-third of the nation’s public water systems have been covered so far. The EPA is anticipated to discover that over 200 million people, or at least 60% of the US population, are exposed to PFAS.

TorHoerman Law reports that firefighting foams, especially Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), are under intense scrutiny due to their significant PFAS content. These foams, widely used in firefighting practices, have been responsible for numerous spills and incidents of groundwater pollution over the years.

Data from the National Response Center and the EPA’s records reveal a staggering 897 documented spills or usage reports of AFFF containing PFAS since 1990. This underscores the significant role these substances play in the ongoing environmental crisis.

Legal actions have been initiated against both corporations and government entities. Lawsuits such as the firefighter foam lawsuit allege negligence in the application and cleanup of firefighting foam.

As of April 2024, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina multidistrict litigation encompasses 7,738 pending lawsuits. Consumer Notice reports claims from individuals and water supply companies seeking compensation for filtering PFAS chemicals from drinking water.

The Health Toll

Mounting scientific evidence suggests a myriad of adverse health effects associated with PFAS exposure, ranging from acute toxicity to chronic diseases. One of the most concerning aspects of PFAS is their bioaccumulative nature. This accumulation in human tissues over time leads to prolonged exposure even at low concentrations.

Here are some of the key long-term health effects linked to PFAS exposure:


Numerous research studies have associated PFAS exposure with heightened susceptibility to a range of cancers, such as kidney, testicular, prostate, and ovarian cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified one common PFAS compound, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as a possible carcinogen. This classification is based on animal studies and limited evidence in humans.

Reproductive and Developmental Disorders

Exposure to PFAS during pregnancy has been linked to negative reproductive effects, including decreased fertility, lower birth weight, and developmental issues in babies. According to a study in Science Direct, both long- and short-chain PFAS interfere with women’s reproductive function. They affect hormone levels, menstrual cycles, and fertility.

Immune Dysfunction

Recent research indicates that exposure to PFAS could compromise immune function, rendering individuals more vulnerable to infections and autoimmune diseases. A study conducted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, as reported by Technology Networks, unveiled that PFAS exposure diminishes the activity of immune cells.

The reduction in immune cell activity due to PFAS exposure may lead to heightened susceptibility to infections. Additionally, it can result in diminished immune responses to vaccinations, underscoring the complex and far-reaching impact of PFAS on human health.

Liver Damage

Research published in Science Direct further elucidates the detrimental effects of PFAS on human health, particularly liver damage. The study suggests that PFAS exposure may elevate the risk of chronic liver disease among individuals.

Findings indicate that elevated PFAS levels in the bloodstream correlate with an increased risk of fatty liver disease and impaired liver function. This correlation was stronger in individuals with known liver disease risk factors, including heavy alcohol consumption, obesity, or high-fat diets.


What are PFAS?

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals known for their water and grease-resistant properties. They are commonly found in firefighting foams and have been linked to various health and environmental concerns.

What types of firefighting foams pose a risk?

Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) classified as Class-B are hazardous as they contain PFAS chemicals, which have been associated with various negative health implications.

What are the potential health risks associated with PFAS exposure from firefighting foam?

PFAS exposure from firefighting foam has been linked to various health risks, including cancer, reproductive issues, immune system disorders, and liver damage.

What steps can individuals take if they believe they have been affected by AFFF exposure?

Individuals who believe they have been harmed by exposure to AFFF may seek legal consultation to explore their options for compensation and justice. Additionally, they can contact relevant authorities and healthcare professionals for guidance on managing potential health risks associated with AFFF exposure.

In conclusion, the long-term health effects of PFAS exposure represent a silent but significant threat to public health, with implications far beyond individual well-being. From cancer to reproductive disorders, PFAS has cast a shadow over countless lives.

Addressing this multifaceted challenge requires collective action, informed decision-making, and a commitment to safeguarding the health and well-being of present and future generations.

Only through concerted efforts can we mitigate the health toll of PFAS exposure and pave the way toward a healthier, PFAS-free future.

Written by Joshua Galyon

Joshua is a senior editor at Snooth, covering most anything of interest in the world of science and technology. Having written on everything from the science of space exploration to advances in gene therapy, he has a real soft spot for big, complicated pieces that make for excellent weekend reads.

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