New evidence from Antarctica shows toxic 'forever fluorinated chemicals' have increased dramatically in the remote environment in recent decades and scientists believe CFC replacements could be among the likely sources.

New evidence from Antarctica shows that toxic “forever fluorinated chemicals” have increased dramatically in the remote environment over the past decades and scientists think CFC replacements could be among the likely sources.

Known as permanent chemicals because they don’t break down naturally in the environment, chemicals such as acids (PFCAs) have a wide range of uses, such as the manufacture of non-stick coatings for pans, water repellents for clothing and fire protection. overcoming mosses. One of these chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), bioaccumulates in food webs and is toxic to humans with links to weakened immune systems and infertility.

In this new study, published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology and led by scientists from Lancaster University together with researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and the Hereon Institute of Coastal Environmental Chemistry, Germany, cores of firn (compacted snow) were taken from the extremely isolated, high and icy Dronning Maud Land plateau of East Antarctica.

The cores, which provide a historical record between 20 and 2017, provide evidence that levels of these chemical pollutants have shown an increase marked by the distant snowpack of Antarctica in recent decades.

The most abundant chemical in covered by far was the short chain compound, perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA). Concentrations of this chemical in snow cores increased significantly from approximately the year 2000 to the collection of the core in 2017.

Professor Crispin Halsall of Lancaster University, who led the study, thinks that this increase may be partly explained by the passage, about 20 years ago, global chemical manufacturers from the production of long chain chemicals like PFOA to shorter chain compounds, as PFBA due to the health concerns associated with human exposure to PFOA.

Dr. Jack Garnett, who performed the chemical analysis of the snow samples , added: “The large increase in PFBAs observed from the core, particularly over the past decade, suggests that there is an additional global source of this chemical other than polymer production. We know that some of the chemicals replacing older ozone-depleting substances like CFCs and HCFCs, such as hydrofluoroethers, are produced around the world in large quantities as refrigerants but can break down in the atmosphere to form PFBA.

“The Montreal Protocol has certainly provided enormous benefits and safety to ozone, the climate and all of us. However, the greater environmental impact and toxicity of some of these alternative chemicals is still unknown.”

PFOA shows an increase in the nucleus of snow beginning in the mid-19s 1980, but with no evidence of a decline in recent years to match the industry phase-out of this chemical world. This indicates that PFOA generation has been sustained or that volatile precursors of this chemical have remained elevated in the global atmosphere.

The researchers behind The study believe the chemicals likely reach Antarctica through the release of volatile “precursor” chemicals into the atmosphere at industrial manufacturing sites. These precursors float in the global atmosphere until they eventually degrade in the presence of sunlight to form the most persistent PFCAs.

The falls of Successive snowfalls over the years have deposited these chemicals from the atmosphere, resulting in a historic record of global contamination that is now trapped in the snowpack.

The results , which are consistent with modeled estimates of chemical emissions of PFCAs.

The Dr Anna Jones, Scientific Director of the British Antarctic Survey, said: “These results remind us that our industrial activities have global consequences. Antarctica, so remote from industrial processes, holds this next sign of human activity resulting from the emissions of thousands of Antarctic snow and ice are essential records of our changing impact on our planet.”

Dr Markus Frey, British Antarctic Study scientist and co-author of the report, said: “This is another example that despite its extreme remoteness, man-made pollution is reaching the Antarctic continent and is then archived in snow and ice, allowing us to establish a history of global air pollution and the effectiveness of mitigation measures.”

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