More than 4,700 chemicals pose a threat to health and the environment

More than 4700 chemicals used in nonstick cookware, hydrophilic clothing, and firefighting foams have been linked to cancer, liver damage, and even thyroid disease (!). These chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl PFAS) are known as “everything chemicals” because they are persistent in the environment and in the human body. At the same time, personal care products, agricultural practices to increase agricultural production, as well as emissions of pollutants from industrial processes and activities, such as mercury and carbon dioxide, are also sources. causes pollution with human influence health.

As Demosthenes Sarigiannis, director and board chairman of the National Research Foundation, explained to NEA, these are chemicals or materials that have recently been recognized as potential threats to the environment and human health. These emerging environmental pollutants are now an area of ​​growing concern and active research, he said. Demosthenes Sarigiannis adds: “Understanding and reducing the risks associated with these pollutants requires a multifaceted approach that includes regulation, scientific research, public awareness, but also technological innovation.”

This begs the question: who are these emerging environmental polluters and where are they located?

According to Demosthenes Sarigiannis, emerging environmental risks have the following types:

Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs). This category includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and personal care products such as shampoos and lotions. These pollutants can enter water bodies through human excreta and improper disposal.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). These substances are found in plastics (such as bisphenol A), pesticides, and other industrial chemicals. They can affect hormonal systems, potentially causing reproductive, developmental and immune problems.

Microplastics. These are small plastic particles produced by the breakdown of larger plastic waste. They are found in seas, freshwater ecosystems and even drinking water. They are potentially harmful if swallowed, although their full health effects are still being studied.

Nanomaterials. They are artificial materials with at least one dimension less than 100 nanometers. They are used in electronics, medicine and cosmetics. Although research is ongoing, potential risks include respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

There are three routes of exposure to pollutants:

1) By admission. Here, contaminated food and water are common sources of exposure. Microplastics and PFAS can be ingested, particularly through seafood and drinking water.

2) by inhalation. Air pollutants, including nanoparticles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be inhaled. In particular, indoor air quality can be affected by household products and building materials.

Because we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors each day and regardless of the season, indoor air pollution is of particular importance in terms of human exposure.

3) Through skin contact. Our skin is exposed to pollutants in personal care products, industrial chemicals, and contaminated soil or water.

According to experts, emerging environmental pollutants cause:

A) Issues of reproduction and development. Hormone disruptors can disrupt normal hormone functions, leading to fertility problems, developmental delays, metabolic syndrome, and birth defects.

B) Cancer. Certain pollutants, such as PFAS and certain pesticides, have been linked to the development of various types of cancer.

C) Neurological problems. Heavy metals (eg, lead, mercury) and some organic pollutants can affect brain development and function, causing cognitive deficits and neurological disorders (both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative).

D) Respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Air pollutants, including nanoparticles and volatile organic compounds, can worsen asthma, lung disease, and cardiovascular disease.

E) Violation of the immune system. Some pollutants, such as PFAS, can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to infection and disease.

“Educating the public about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and reducing the use of harmful chemicals is essential to addressing the public health threat from emerging pollutants,” says the director and chairman of the board of the National Research Foundation.

In addition and in parallel, as he emphasized, it is necessary to promote the use of safer alternatives in consumer products and industrial processes in the form of a new industrial revolution that will ensure the development of innovative solutions for the production of safe products through public education. sustainable products based on the increasing possibilities that digitization and artificial intelligence can offer. According to Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, continued research is needed to better understand the health effects of emerging pollutants.

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