'Forever chemical' GenX more toxic than previously thought

Treven Pyles

By Treven Pyles

Posted on August 03rd, 2023

There are currently up to 9,000 variations of synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, all of which have caused significant pollution across the United States. They represent a class that includes substances such as PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many others, 'forever chemicals' that are incredibly persistent in the environment and bioaccumulate.

GenX chemicals represent a man-made, fluorinated organic compound that is a part of the PFAS chemical group. It is a brand name for an innovative process that DuPont generated to create high-performance fluoropolymers without the usage of perfluorooctanoic acid (also called PFOA).

The main chemicals connected to the GenX processing aid technology are the HFPO dimer acid and its ammonium salt. PFOA, which has eight carbon atoms, is often referred to as a 'longer chain' PFAS, whereas GenX compounds, which have six carbon atoms, are referred to as 'shorter chain' PFAS.

GenX chemicals may be similarly utilized in the production of the same related fluoropolymer end products since they can be employed as a substitute for PFOA. However, the EPA is not aware of which commercial goods use GenX chemicals as a processing technology since it does not receive such details from manufacturers. Surface water, groundwater, rainwater, drinking water, and air emissions have all been discovered to contain GenX substances.

How are people exposed to GenX chemicals?

Several various pathways, including consuming contaminated water or breathing contaminated air, can expose people to GenX substances. The primary focus of EPA's final assessment for GenX chemicals is on the possible effects on human health that could result from oral intake.

GenX compounds have the potential to cause exposure over a wider area than PFAS, through off-site transport or groundwater, since they are much more mobile than 'longer chain' PFAS. Also, they have a similar persistence in the environment as PFAS with longer chains such as PFOA and PFOS.

Studies on animals after GenX substances oral exposure have revealed harmful consequences on the immune system, the liver, the kidneys, the development of offspring, and a link with cancer. The liver seems to be particularly vulnerable to GenX compounds oral intake, according to various data from trials regarding various sexes, life stages, and exposure durations.

GenX is more harmful than was previously accepted

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently declared that GenX, one of the numerous 'forever chemicals' known as PFAS, is harmful at significantly lower exposures than the two well-known PFAS: PFOA and PFOS.

Additionally, the EPA announced a measure of steps in October 2021 that may have a more immediate impact on the regulation of the disposal of septage and sewage sludge. The EPA has now found that GenX chemicals, a supposedly safer substitute for PFOS and PFOA, are actually more dangerous than what they initially replaced. This is known as a 'regrettable substitution', and the agency has thus released a change to the human health toxicity assessment for GenX chemicals.

The toxicity assessment for GenX chemicals is a scientific report that evaluates all toxicity and carcinogenicity information currently available, including toxicity values linked to probable noncancer health effects following oral exposure. The risks to human health are evaluated by this toxicity assessment.

The quantity (or the reference dose) of the GenX chemical that a person can ingest over the course of a lifetime without experiencing health problems, is defined by the EPA's toxicity assessment as being 25 times lower than reported in an earlier evaluation, dating 2018.

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