PFAS

Inquirer Technology: ‘Forever Chemicals’ found in the batteries of electric vehicles

Many are switching to electric vehicles to help save the planet, fueling the global EV boom.

Ironically, scientists have found “forever chemicals” in their batteries. 

Also known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, they have devastating effects on the environment and numerous health risks. 

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That is why scientists urge automakers to closely monitor battery manufacturing. As a result, they can truly become eco-friendly.

How did scientists find forever chemicals in EVs?

Jennifer Guelfo, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Texas Tech University, and her team know electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. 

They have a specific forever chemical type called bis-perfluoroalkyl sulfonimides, or bis-FASIs. Consequently, they examined how bis-FASIs seep into the environment.

They tested the air, water, sediment, and soil near lithium-ion manufacturing plants and found high bis-FASI concentrations. The researchers say they can travel long distances while airborne, “meaning that areas far from manufacturing sites may be affected as well.”

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They also found forever chemicals in landfills, suggesting they leach into the ground after people dispose EV batteries. 

At the time of writing, there is minimal research regarding bis-FASI health risks. However, Fast Company says exposing fish to these chemicals causes behavioral and metabolism changes.

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These substances would likely be dangerous to humans, considering what we know about other PFAS.

Worse, forever chemicals take several years to decompose, allowing them to contaminate the environment for a long time. 

Lithium-ion battery manufacturing has issues beyond bis-FASIs, such as its massive energy and water consumption. Moreover, mining its raw materials ruins communities and habitats. 

“Our results reveal a dilemma associated with manufacturing, disposal, and recycling of clean energy infrastructure,” said Jennifer Guelfo.

“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.”


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Fortunately, scientists are developing more eco-friendly alternatives. Check out this other Inquirer Tech article for more information.

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