Rainwater No Longer Safe To Drink, Study Shows

Aug 22, 2022

Earth’s rainwater is unsafe to drink because of “forever chemicals” found in rain. That's according to a new study.  

The study looked at the amount of “forever chemicals” in rain. They are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that don’t easily break down. They've been linked to a lot of health issues. The chemicals can cause developmental delays in children, heart issues, and cancer. The hazards are found in products such as cookware, flame-retardant foams, and make up. They are used to protect items from grease, heat, and stains. 

PFAS have a long lifespan. That is part of what makes them dangerous. When humans throw out products with PFAS, the chemicals end up in the water supply. From there, they are transferred into the atmosphere by the water cycle. Then, they fall back to earth in rain or snow. That’s where humans are most likely to come into contact with them. 

“Based on the latest US guidelines … rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink,” said the study’s lead author. “Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and it supplies many of our drinking water sources.”

The team’s findings suggest that it will not be easy to address the amount of PFAS in rainwater. The study said, though, that we might be able to limit their spread in the future. To do that, humans would need to use fewer “forever chemicals” and put more rules on the industries that make them.

Photo by Reza Shayestehpour courtesy of Unsplash.

Why does it matter that “forever chemicals” can be found in rainwater everywhere? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. some people drink rainwater, and “forever chemicals” have been linked to health risks
b. “forever chemicals” can be found in many common household items
c. people don’t often drink rainwater in many industrialized nations
d. “forever chemicals” don’t easily break down
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