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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17554424 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.

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© Scott Currie

Fidra launches Great Global Nurdle Hunt

Thousands of people are set to take part in The Great Global Nurdle Hunt from 13-22 March 2020, with events in over 25 countries.

From Scotland to South America people are heading to the beach searching for these tiny plastic pellets as part of Fidra’s work to prevent nurdle pollution. Nurdles are the starting materials for many plastic products. They are made and transported around the world before being melted down to make plastic products, leaking out of the supply chain at every stage in the process. These plastic pellets are washing up on beaches around the world. Nurdles look a lot like fish eggs, which many species eat, and have been found in fish, seabirds and turtles. Not only does the plastic itself cause a problem for wildlife but nurdles also host toxic chemical and biological contaminants.

To help prevent this plastic pollution you can do your own Nurdle Hunt by heading to a beach or waterway and reporting your finds at  www.nurdlehunt.org.uk. Finds from the Great Global Nurdle Hunt are added to an online map, evidencing the scale of this plastic pollution and demonstrating that people worldwide care about this issue. Fidra’s Great Global Nurdle Hunt team have some key tips and hints to help you hunt. Or you can take part in one of the Nurdle Hunts open to the public taking place around the world from 13-22 March.

Follow the Great Nurdle Hunt on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for news about events and our latest finds.

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