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Global rainwater is now contaminated with ‘forever chemicals.’ What can we do about it?

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
07/09/21 - BOSTON, MA. - Tropical storm Elsa brings heavy rain to Northeastern’s Boston campus on July 9, 2021.

Rainwater contaminated by toxic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, is now a global problem, according to new research published in Environmental Science & Technology.

The Stockholm University study found that levels of PFAS contamination are so persistent and widespread that even the most sparsely populated regions of the world, such as Antarctica and the Tibetan plateau, contained levels of the toxic “forever chemicals” that surpassed even the most “stringent” existing guidelines, the authors said. 

“There is nowhere on Earth where the rain would be safe to drink, according to the measurements that we have taken,” Ian Cousins, a professor at the university and lead author of the study, said recently. 

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