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The precautionary principle and chemicals management: The example of perfluoroalkyl acids in groundwater
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry.
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Number of Authors: 5
2016 (English)In: Environment International, ISSN 0160-4120, E-ISSN 1873-6750, Vol. 94, 331-340 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Already in the late 1990s microgram-per-liter levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were measured in water samples from areas where fire-fighting foams were used or spilled. Despite these early warnings, the problems of groundwater, and thus drinking water, contaminated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) including PFOS are only beginning to be addressed. It is clear that this PFAS contamination is poorly reversible and that the societal costs of clean-up will be high. This inability to reverse exposure in a reasonable timeframe is a major motivation for application of the precautionary principle in chemicals management. We conclude that exposure can be poorly reversible; 1) due to slow elimination kinetics in organisms, or 2) due to poorly reversible environmental contamination that leads to continuous exposure. In the second case, which is relevant for contaminated groundwater, the reversibility of exposure is not related to the magnitude of a chemical's bioaccumulation potential. We argue therefore that all PFASs entering groundwater, irrespective of their perfluoroalkyl chain length and bioaccumulation potential, will result in poorly reversible exposures and risks as well as further clean-up costs for society. To protect groundwater resources for future generations, society should consider a precautionary approach to chemicals management and prevent the use and release of highly persistent and mobile chemicals such as PFASs. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 94, 331-340 p.
Keyword [en]
PFASs, Drinking water, Precautionary principle, Chemicals management
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135054DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2016.04.044ISI: 000382339000036PubMedID: 27337597OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-135054DiVA: diva2:1043728
Available from: 2016-10-31 Created: 2016-10-31 Last updated: 2016-10-31Bibliographically approved

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Cousins, Ian T.Vestergren, RobinMcLachlan, Michael S.
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