Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a class of up to 10,000 human-made fluorinated organic chemicals. The chemicals can be found in food, drinking water, living organisms and a wide range of consumer and industry products, including water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, pizza boxes, cleaning products, paints and firefighting foams. Due to their resistance to grease, oil, water, and heat, inability to break down over time and tendency to accumulate in the environment and humans, they are also known as “forever chemicals.”

In 2018, the federal government published a comprehensive and controversial toxicology review of perfluoroalkyls chemicals and their human health effects, upending previous federally accepted standards for exposure to PFAS. Epidemiological studies link exposure to PFAS to adverse health effects. State governments have often moved faster than the federal government to regulate PFAS substances. Recent lawsuits from state lawmakers allege PFAS manufacturers, primarily 3M, DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva are responsible for PFAS contamination of local drinking water in several states.

Illustrations by Saloni Kothari

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