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  • Right now we're all on edge because of the coronavirus.

  • And yes, it is scary,

  • but, you know, what helps me sleep at night

  • is remembering that there are a million other things

  • that could kill me first.

  • Yeah, there's car accidents or fires

  • or that suicide pact I made with my best friend in high school

  • if we weren't married by now.

  • But luckily,

  • luckily, the U.S. government recently took action

  • to cross one potential killer off the list.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • is targeting PFAS chemicals in its new proposal

  • for a national drinking water standard.

  • NEWSMAN: PFAS are toxic chemicals

  • linked to serious diseases like, oh, cancer,

  • liver damage and thyroid disease.

  • And guess what? They never, ever, ever degrade.

  • In fact, they're known as forever chemicals.

  • NEWSWOMAN: They're so prevalent, CDC scientists believe

  • PFAS chemicals are in the bloodstreams

  • of nearly all Americans.

  • Yeah. Apparently, there's a group of chemicals

  • called PFAS

  • that are in all of our blood,

  • and it might cause cancer.

  • And because they're impossible to break down,

  • they're known as forever chemicals,

  • which sounds really dangerous

  • but also kind of romantic, you know?

  • Yeah, it does.

  • It sounds like something from an old-school R&B song.

  • You know, it's just like, "Girl,

  • "I want to be your forever chemical.

  • There's nothing toxic about our love."

  • (laughter)

  • But what are these forever chemicals,

  • and how do they get into us?

  • 'Cause if it's not sexually transmitted,

  • I don't know how I got it.

  • Well, let's find out in another installment

  • of "If You Don't Know, Now You Know."

  • -♪ ♪ -(cheering and applause)

  • Now, forever chemicals might be with us until the end of time,

  • but they were only engineered by scientists

  • about 80 years ago, and for a while,

  • it seemed like they would only change the world for the better.

  • NEWSWOMAN: PFAS chemicals were first discovered in 1938

  • accidentally by scientists.

  • They were used a few years later in the Manhattan Project.

  • NEWSWOMAN 2: What make PFAS so useful in manufacturing

  • is how the chemicals fit together.

  • The fluorine atoms just so happen to fit perfectly

  • around the carbon atoms to create a bond

  • that resists things like heat, oil and water.

  • NEWSWOMAN 3: It's in most products

  • that are water, heat and grease resistant.

  • They're used to repel water, grease and oil

  • in all sorts of things,

  • from carpets to clothing to nonstick cookware.

  • That's right. Forever chemicals are used

  • to keep things like food, oil, and moisture

  • from sticking to surfaces,

  • which-- you can't deny-- is really useful.

  • I mean, like, I don't want to get cancer,

  • but, at the same time, have you ever tried scraping eggs

  • off a non-- like-like, a sticky pan?

  • Have you tried that? It's a nightmare.

  • Like, there have definitely been times

  • when I was just like, "Ugh, I'd rather be dead!"

  • And this technology, this technology

  • was discovered by scientists entirely by accident,

  • which always amazes me that they can do this.

  • Like, scientists are always making one thing

  • but then they discover something totally different.

  • You know? I mean, like, I've done the same thing in my life.

  • Like, one time, I was trying to create dinner for my girlfriend,

  • but, instead, I discovered that she didn't love me.

  • I-I guess, in a way, me and Stacy were also nonstick.

  • But the point is, the point is,

  • these forever chemicals have tons of uses.

  • Uh, they were even used in the Manhattan Project

  • to help build the first atomic bomb,

  • which means, at some point in the 1940s,

  • a general was like, "Did you discover a way

  • to defeat the Germans?" And the scientists were like,

  • "Uh, we're-we're still working on it.

  • "Uh, but-but before I get to that,

  • has this ever happened to you?"

  • Now, forever chemicals would be incredible

  • if they remained in all those products

  • like they were supposed to.

  • Unfortunately, they just can't seem to stay put.

  • So, once they're made, they just accumulate in the environment.

  • They end up in our water supply,

  • they end up in our food, and they end up in us.

  • REPORTER: The environmental watchdog group found

  • forever chemicals, or PFASs,

  • in drinking water in some 31 states.

  • REPORTER 2: You'll find them in the lining

  • of typical takeout containers and pizza boxes.

  • REPORTER 3: The toxins in the packaging

  • can transfer into food.

  • REPORTER 4: The Food and Drug Administration just found

  • substantial levels in some grocery store meats

  • and seafood. And they found even higher levels

  • in chocolate cake that can be bought off the shelf.

  • Damn.

  • Chocolate cake takes no prisoners.

  • If it doesn't get you with the diabetes,

  • it's got a backup plan to take you down with secret chemicals.

  • Yeah. It's like if Walter White teamed up with Betty Crocker.

  • And why does this always happen with food we love? Huh?

  • It's always the food we love that's coming to kill us.

  • You never hear the news say, "This just in--

  • fermented horse meat is bad for you."

  • It's always like, "Do you enjoy chocolate cake and water?

  • Well, you dead now."

  • Because chocolate cake would have been bad enough,

  • but forever chemicals are also in our water.

  • Our water, people.

  • That means it's in the sink.

  • It's in the shower.

  • Which means it's seen me naked,

  • so it could give me cancer and blackmail me.

  • I swear to God, forever chemicals,

  • you tell anyone about that thing hanging off my back

  • and I'll kill you!

  • So, anyway, thanks to forever chemicals,

  • everything from your food to your drinking water

  • is contaminated. And, yes, the EPA

  • is finally starting to take action now.

  • But people have been raising concerns

  • about these forever chemicals for decades.

  • And for decades, companies like DuPont

  • were brushing off those concerns

  • like they were food on a Teflon pan.

  • BRIAN ROSS: Even DuPont says it cannot rule out

  • that Teflon-connected products

  • such as its Stainmaster carpet treatment

  • give off the chemical.

  • Uma Chowdhry, a vice president of research,

  • is the DuPont executive chosen to publicly defend Teflon.

  • She says Teflon is completely safe,

  • even if the key chemical is in everyone's blood.

  • -Everyone has it. -Everyone has it.

  • -It's in my blood? Your blood? -Possibly.

  • We do not believe there are any adverse health effects.

  • Is that a good thing, to have it in your blood?

  • There are lots of chemicals that are present in our blood.

  • (laughter)

  • "There are lots of chemicals in our blood"?

  • Yeah, but, right now, we're talking about the chemicals

  • your company put there.

  • What kind of defense is this?

  • Can you imagine if you caught someone breaking into your home

  • and you're like, "Hey, what are you doing here?!"

  • They're like, "Uh, there are many people in houses right now.

  • I mean, who's that guy?"

  • You're like, "That's my husband."

  • "My point exactly."

  • So, at this point, at this point,

  • no matter what the government does to fight forever chemicals,

  • there's a good chance a lot of the damage is already done.

  • If you've got blood, these forever chemicals are in it.

  • So all companies like DuPont can do now

  • is just put their best spin on things, which isn't easy.

  • I won't lie, if I ran DuPont,

  • I would-- I would try, I'd try and, like,

  • figure out a way to make it look good.

  • I wouldn't hide the fact that they may have poisoned

  • almost every human on the face of the planet.

  • No, I-I would make ads to own it with pride.

  • ANNOUNCER: What do banks, real estate,

  • and the Oscars have in common?

  • Discrimination.

  • But at DuPont, we're all about inclusivity.

  • That's right. No matter who you are or where you're from,

  • DuPont will poison you.

  • (Southern accent): I grew up in Texas,

  • and I've got DuPont chemicals in my blood.

  • (African accent): Look at me.

  • I am from Uganda, and I am poisoned.

  • Because of all these chemicals in my blood,

  • the doctors say I've got cancer.

  • -And so does my husband. -(chuckles)

  • DuPont. Forever chemicals.

  • For everyone.

Right now we're all on edge because of the coronavirus.

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If You Don't Know, Now You Know: Toxic PFAS Chemicals | The Daily Show

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