PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals.

A Week at Fidra

By Cameron I., Work Experience Placement

My week at Fidra has been a fantastic experience, learning about how an environmental charity works. Everyone was really welcoming and were eager to tell me about what work they are doing. The staff that work here are lovely and are very passionate about all the projects which Fidra has. It seems in order to keep an environmental charity running, many cups of tea must be had! Everyone at Fidra works very hard to progress with their projects and ultimately to make a positive change, like with the recent cotton bud legislation in Scotland which Fidra played a key role in getting. During my time at Fidra I sat and listened to a lot of meetings which widened my knowledge on the projects and showed me how vital teamwork is within an organisation like this. It impressed me how well the staff get on together here and how they all come up with good ideas for each other’s work. 

I’m the first person Fidra have ever had come in to do work experience so I think it was a bit of an unknown for both of us but they accommodated me well. They kept me busy throughout the week, I carried out a nurdle hunt, learnt how a website is edited and how early morning meetings are always a struggle. I was lucky in that Becky, the Director of Fidra was over from Australia this week. I was interested to learn how many conferences each person goes to give presentations and speak to people which seems very valuable for the organisation to spread awareness. I would say it’s a great, close knit working environment to be in because everybody in the office has similar aspirations and their work all connects together so bouncing ideas off each other is easy.  

One thing that did surprise me was how much time employees spend at their computer and in meetings, doing research into the projects and emailing industry and people they think might be able to help. It seems Fidra contact other trustworthy organisations to use their data in reports. I was expecting them to be conducting more experiments and surveys themselves but with a small team I can see why this isn’t possible.  

I like the fact that Fidra being a relatively small charity which generally works behind the scenes can generate a lot of interest and is making massive steps in order to bring about change. From my experience I can strongly recommend doing some work experience at an environmental charity, especially Fidra! I would just like to say thanks for the fantastic opportunity and good luck in the future with the projects.  

There are currently no vacancies for work experiences in 2020.

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