Alert over toxic chemicals from the batteries in our phones and cars

Alert over toxic chemicals from the batteries in our phones and cars Alert over toxic chemicals from the batteries in electric our phones

Batteries found in mobile phones, electric cars and most modern gadgets contain toxic 'forever chemicals' that are becoming widespread in our air and water, a study claims.

Scientists in the US discovered that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are leaking harmful substances called PFAS into the environment during production and after disposal.

One chemical of particular concern is called bis-perfluoroalkyl sulfonimide (bis-FASI), which is currently unregulated but was found to be just as toxic as notorious PFOA, found in pesticides, waterproof coatings and certain types of paint.

PFAS are called 'forever chemicals' because they never leave the body once they are consumed.

They are linked to serious health issues including cancer, high cholesterol, reduced kidney function, thyroid disease, low fertility, repressed immune system and low birth weight in babies.

They are also feared to affect growth, learning, and behaviour development in infants and children.

PFAS chemicals have previously been found in food produce including fresh fruits and vegetables as a result of pesticide contamination.

Lithium-ion batteries are seen as a key part of the growing clean energy infrastructure. They are found in electric cars, mobile phones, medical devices, smart watches, laptops and other electronics.

Demand is anticipated to grow exponentially over the next decade. However, the batteries only last for a certain amount of time before they need to be replaced.

Just five percent of lithium-ion batteries are currently recycled, and studies predict up to eight million tons of them will be going to waste dumps by 2040.

The researchers from universities in Texas and North Carolina studied 75 surface water, five tap water, two groundwater, one snow, 15 sediment, and 21 soil samples from 87 locations worldwide, including Belgium and France.

They found bis-FASI chemicals from battery manufacturing plants and areas where they had been disposed of.

What ARE 'forever chemicals'?

'Forever chemicals' are a class of common industrial compounds that don't break down when they're released into the environment.

Humans are exposed to these chemicals after they've come in contact with food, soil or water reservoirs.

These chemicals ¿ known more properly as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS ¿ are added to cookware, carpets, textiles and other items to make them more water- and stain-repellant.

PFAS contamination has been detected in water near manufacturing facilities, as well as at military bases and firefighting training facilities where flame-retardant foam is used.

The chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, and damage to the immune system, as well as birth defects, smaller birth weights, and decreased vaccine response in children.

Data also suggested that air emissions of bis-FASI may facilitate long-range transport, meaning that areas far from manufacturing sites may be affected as well.

Professor Jennifer Guelfo, of Texas Tech University, said: 'Our results reveal a dilemma associated with manufacturing, disposal, and recycling of clean energy infrastructure.

'Slashing CO2 emissions with innovations like electric cars is critical, but it shouldn't come with the side effect of increasing PFAS pollution.

'We need to facilitate technologies, manufacturing controls, and recycling solutions that can fight the climate crisis without releasing highly recalcitrant pollutants.'

Analysis of several municipal landfill areas in the US revealed high bis-FASI concentrations, indicating that these compounds can enter the environment through disposal of products including lithium-ion batteries.

Toxicity testing demonstrated that concentrations of bis-FASI similar to those found at the sampling sites is highly dangerous to fish.

Bis-FASI toxicity has not yet been studied in humans though other, more well-studied PFAS are linked to a variety of serious health harms.

Testing showed that bis-FASI did not break down during oxidation, highlighting they may linger forever in the environment.

However, the researchers found that concentrations of bis-FASI in water could be reduced using granular activated carbon and ion.

Lee Ferguson, of Duke University in North Carolina, said: 'These results illustrate that treatment approaches designed for PFOA and PFOS can also remove bis-FASIs.

'We should harness the expertise of scientists, engineers, sociologists and policy makers to develop and promote use of clean energy infrastructure while minimising the environmental footprint.

'We should use the momentum behind current energy initiatives to ensure that new energy technologies are truly clean.'

The study showed that bis-FASIs are used in lithium-ion battery electrolytes and binders. Other chemicals used in the batteries do not meet the definition of PFAS.

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  • https://www.msn.com/en-sg/news/other/alert-over-toxic-chemicals-from-the-batteries-in-our-phones-and-cars/ar-BB1pBqE3?ocid=00000000

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