The effects that pollution is having on our oceans are massive, and their scope is large enough that we still have not fully grasped many of them. In today’s ocean pollution news, researchers in the Netherlands have found high levels of toxic chemicals concentrated in seafoam, leading the Dutch government to issue a warning to beachgoers.
What is happening?
The researchers took samples from several different areas and found concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, or “forever chemicals” due to their inability to break down organically.
As a result, Dutch Minister of Water Management Mark Harbers informed citizens that “it is sensible to have a shower after swimming, wash your hands before eating, and not to let children and pets swallow any seafoam … people in the Netherlands are already too exposed to PFAS. A large amount comes from food and drinking water. Every route through which people ingest more PFAS is undesirable, including via sea foam.”
Why is this concerning?
As Harbers pointed out, we are all exposed to large amounts of PFAS already — the chemicals are present in everything from toiletries to cosmetics to nonstick cookware to clothing, and now seafoam, as well. The United States military also dumps massive amounts of the stuff into drinking water supplies wherever it has bases.
While the effects of these chemicals on humans are still not fully understood, studies have linked them to different types of cancer, reproductive issues, low birth weights, weakened immune systems in children, and increased cholesterol.
What is being done about it?
The EPA has said that it recognizes the dangers of PFAS, but the chemicals remain incredibly widespread.
In 2021, the EPA issued two actions to attempt to limit the levels of PFAS in drinking water. The EPA also added five PFAS to the list of “risk-based values for site cleanups,” which is how the organization determines if a contaminated site will receive federal funding for remediation.
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