Do you know what forever chemicals are? | Science & Technology

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“Forever chemicals” have made the news recently, with new EPA rules limiting the amount of some types that can be in drinking water.

Here, Carla Ng, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, explains what these chemicals are, where they’re found, and what’s being done to limit their impact.

What exactly are forever chemicals?

When scientists created a chemical compound capable of repelling both water and oil in the 1940s, they believed it was a revolution in materials sciences. They weren’t wrong.

That class of chemical compounds, called per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), were quickly used to create useful domestic products like Teflon and dental floss, along with industrial agents like firefighting foam. They even found use in parts of the Manhattan Project.

Decades later, PFAS are still around. Because of…


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