In movies, when people are forced to survive in the wild or during an apocalypse, they always hope for rain, because then they don’t have to worry about something to drink.
Well, it turns out that if we were suddenly thrown into a situation where our running water disappeared, we would be in trouble, due to the chemicals found in rainwater all over the world.
Yes, even in Antarctica.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “eternal chemicals”, have spread throughout the world and exist in the atmosphere both indoors and outdoors. The chemicals are man-made and super harmful.
A recent paper published in Environmental Science & Technology examined the concentrations of four major PFASs in rainwater, soil, and surface waters around the world, and found that the concentrations exceeded the safety guidelines of the US Environmental Protection Agency Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory.
“Based on the latest U.S. guidelines for PFOA in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be deemed unsafe to drink. Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and to supply many of our sources of drinking water.
As regulations have decreased, levels in the environment have increased, meaning water that could have been safely consumed in nature twenty years ago is no longer compliant.
“There has been an astonishing decline in guideline values for PFAS in drinking water over the past 20 years. For example, the drinking water guideline value for a well-known PFAS-class substance, the carcinogen perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has decreased 37.5 million times in the United States.
PFAS are harmful to human health and do not easily break down or disappear from the environment, in part because there are natural processes that recycle them indefinitely.
“The extreme persistence and continued global cycle of certain PFAS will lead to continued exceedance of the above guidelines. So now, due to the global spread of PFAS, environmental media everywhere will exceed environmental quality guidelines designed to protect human health and there is little we can do to reduce PFAS contamination. In other words, it makes sense to set a planetary limit specifically for PFAS and, as we conclude in the article, that limit has now been exceeded.
We better hope we never run out of clean water – or at the very least learn how to start a fire with your own hands.