Chemistry For Your Life

#168

Continuing our series on "forever chemicals" aka PFAS, we explore how we got into this situation. Where did PFAS come from? Why were they made? Were there any signs of PFAS being a problem early on? Let's investigate.


References from this Episode
  1. https://www.chemistryworld.com/podcasts/ptfe/3005920.article?adredir=1
  2. https://www.teflon.com/en/news-events/history
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7530144/
  4. https://www.investors.dupont.com/news-and-media/press-release-details/2023/Chemours-DuPont-and-Corteva-Reach-Comprehensive-PFAS-Settlement-with-U.S.-Water-Systems/default.aspx
We want to give a special thanks to Bri McAllister for illustrating molecules for some episodes! Please go check out Bri’s art, follow and support her at entr0pic.artstation.com and @McAllisterBri on twitter!


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What is Chemistry For Your Life?

A podcast that helps you understand the fascinating chemistry hidden in your everyday life.

Have you ever wondered why onions make you cry? Or how soap gets your hands clean? What really is margarine, or why do trees change colors in the fall? Melissa is a chemist, and to answer these questions she started a podcast, called Chemistry for your life!

In each episode Melissa explains the chemistry behind one of life’s mysteries to Jam, who is definitely not a chemist, but she explains it in a way that is easy to understand, and totally fascinating.

If you’re someone who loves learning new things, or who wonders about the way the world works, then give us a listen.

Melissa:

Okay, Jam. Last week, we talked about forever chemicals.

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

We talked about what they are, if they're safe, and we're gonna do a little bit more on that today.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

We're gonna talk about why they are and how they came to be and, how there may have been a little bit of deception on the part of chemical companies to keep their dangers a secret. Oh. Not cute.

Jam:

You hate to see it.

Melissa:

Hate to see it.

Jam:

Man.

Melissa:

So we're gonna do a deep dive on that, and then next week, we're gonna talk a little bit more about what we can do about them. So it's dark today, but it ends on a high note Okay. Next week or 2 weeks now. Okay. But before we do any of that Uh-huh.

Melissa:

We wanna dedicate this week's episode to our brand new patron, Latila Yes.

Jam:

Awesome. Yes, Latila. Thank you so much for joining our super cool Chem Unity,

Melissa:

Chem Unity. Yeah. And, Latila, we first talk to Latila right before our YouTube live, and she's been messaging us. And so it's kinda fun to see her join in, and she even asked about when our coffee hour or for questions about our coffee hour this week. So very exciting.

Melissa:

And if y'all want more info on our Patreon, you can go to patreon .com/Kim for your life. Learn more about it.

Jam:

Yep. We'd love to have you.

Melissa:

And now on to today's show. Hey. I'm Melissa. I'm Jam. I'm a chemist.

Jam:

And I'm not.

Melissa:

And welcome to chemistry for your life.

Jam:

The podcast helps you understand the chemistry of your everyday life.

Melissa:

Okay. So this is part 2.

Jam:

K?

Melissa:

And we've talked about Teflon before, so this is sort of gonna be a similar history because it's the same backstory. But I don't think we've gone into this much detail about the discovery of Teflon.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

Okay. So I'm gonna ask Bree to illustrate this.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

But if you remember, Teflon is a polymer, And, its full name is polytetrafluoroethylene, which means, a polymer is A large molecule made up of a bunch of smaller molecules. We like to call them molecules. Mhmm. So the poly is there's multiple, and then the Tetrafluoroethylene is the small molecule that gets repeated over and over.

Jam:

Right. Right.

Melissa:

And we've talked about before that, essentially, that Teflon is just a chain of carbons with only fluorines and no hydrogens on it.

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

But I don't think we've talked about the fact That it comes from Tetrachloroethylene and what even Tetrachloroethylene is.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So it's not like you just start with a carbon Bonded to 4 fluorines, and then you add them together. Right. What you actually start with for tetrafluoroethylene, Ethylene is a carbon carbon double bond. So way, way back when we talked about different alcohols, we talked about how For a single carbon, that's called meth methane.

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

For a double or 2 carbons, it's called ethane. If you put an alcohol in it, that's ethanol. Okay. And instead of the carbons being linked by a single bond, if you have 2 bonds between them, that's called ethylene. Okay.

Melissa:

So e and e indicates that there's a double bond at the end if you have e and e. Okay. Okay. So ethylene means there's 2 carbons, And there's a double bond between them.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So now we would call that ethene usually, but, For tetrafluoroethylene, if you can imagine in your mind, carbon likes to have Four bonds. Right? And, hopefully, you can have Brie illustrate this for us. Normally, carbon likes to have 4 bonds. But in this case, one of the carbons has 2 of its little arms taken up by holding on to another carbon.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

And then it has 2 other arms still free, And each of those has a fluorine.

Jam:

Okay. Okay.

Melissa:

And now both carbons have that. So there's a carbon with a double bond to a carbon. Both of them still have Two arms free, and each of those arms is holding a fluorine.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

That's why we call it tetrafluorine because there are 4 fluorines. They're just not all around 1 carbon.

Jam:

Right. Right.

Melissa:

And then to polymerize that, essentially, you open that bond up. Like, you take one of the double bonds and make it bond to another unit of the same thing.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

And then that would open up the bond and take it to another unit of the same thing. And that's how you get this repeating chain of just carbons with 2 fluorines on it.

Jam:

Okay. Taking one of the bonds Of the, like, the 2 that are with the carbons? Carbon to carbon?

Melissa:

Yes. That's

Jam:

where you'd add it in?

Melissa:

Yeah. You would basically, if you can imagine, it's hard to picture. So, hopefully, Bree can illustrate for us. But if you can imagine you know, before we had it to where, if you imagined a person with Four arms. Mhmm.

Melissa:

Mhmm. And, they're linking arms side to side with a bunch of different carbons, and then the arms coming out of the front and the back have fluorine.

Jam:

Uh-huh.

Melissa:

So to start with, you can imagine carbons where 2 of their arms are holding on to each other Yes.

Jam:

And then

Melissa:

the other 2 arms have fluorine. And when they come and see another carbon, they'll break one of the bonds to their fellow carbon and grab the new one.

Jam:

Got it.

Melissa:

Got it. Instead of the arms being on the same side, they they Break that, and now it's a single bond between both carbons.

Jam:

Got it. So every carbon ends up 2 of their arms are to carbon

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

And 2 of their arms are to Florian?

Melissa:

Yes.

Jam:

Okay. Got it.

Melissa:

And they started with 2 of their arms to carbon, but it was, like, Two of their arms the same The

Jam:

same carbon. Yep.

Melissa:

So instead of it being like, oh, we have 2 bonds to carbon a. Now we have a bond to carbon a and a Bonded carbon b, and they're both single bonds. Okay. And no double bonds anymore.

Jam:

Got it.

Melissa:

So that's how fluorine came to be. Yeah. So just a little bit of a history. In the 19 thirties, a chemical researcher who was working at a sub set of DuPont, he had a that's a chemical company name that should sound familiar. We tried this.

Melissa:

We talked about it in Teflon. He was working with a high pressure can of Polytetra or sorry, of tetrafluoroethylene.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So it's the it's a gas in its natural state. So he's in A gas form, and he had it in, like, a pressurized cylinder. And it was acting like it was empty, You know, when he tried to open the valve or whatever, but there was still some weight to it, which indicated that there still should be gas in there, but it was like, no gas was coming out.

Jam:

Uh-huh.

Melissa:

And so, eventually, he opened up the container, and, apparently, it's, like, kind of scary. If it's the kind of container I'm imagining, they can be really dangerous because it's very high Pressure.

Jam:

Oh.

Melissa:

Air. Uh-huh. But he opened the container behind a bomb shield, and instead of finding gas, he found a waxy substance Dense?

Jam:

Uh-huh.

Melissa:

Which was that the gas had polymerized under all that pressure and with enough there's enough, like, ionization happening in the, cylinder that It caused the polymerization.

Jam:

Interesting. So it

Melissa:

was an accident.

Jam:

Wow. That's crazy.

Melissa:

I know. And he could've just been like, whatever, but instead he went and figured it out.

Jam:

Yeah. Good for him. I mean, like

Melissa:

Kind of.

Jam:

I guess, like, good science, though. It's like, what happened? Let's figure it out.

Melissa:

Right.

Jam:

At the time, probably first thing from his mind was, is this gonna be around forever?

Melissa:

Is this gonna change the world? Yeah. I know. Yeah. And before you knew how dangerous it was, you probably were like, wow.

Melissa:

I made something that's, like, making the world so much better.

Jam:

Yeah. And just like the mystery, like, wait. Why did this Happened. And what what is this now?

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

I mean, I would be totally, like, I gotta figure this out.

Melissa:

Mhmm. So And I think lots of big chemistry Lots of big scientific things happen on accident. You know? Yeah. And I like to instill that in my students.

Melissa:

I just I want you to be observers who draw conclusions. That's really what, to me, the scientific method is really about. It's, like, making observations and using that as evidence to draw conclusions. You know? So it was an accident, but he went and figured it out, and, eventually, DuPont got a patent for it.

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

And in the early 19 forties is when patented Teflon products started to be sold. Got it. So that's where we started. Hang on. Let me make sure.

Melissa:

Oh, so, some of the uses, we had talked about a little bit last week, but it can produce a good Seal, that was one of the first things that is used for, like what you talked about with your pool. It's still being used. Teflon is literally still being used in plumbing. And it also is used in clothing, candy wrappers, pizza boxes on on Nonstick pans, fast food wrappers, it's fire extinguishers. It was even on Neil Armstrong's space suit when he went on the moon.

Jam:

Wow.

Melissa:

Isn't that wild?

Jam:

That's crazy.

Melissa:

So by 1948, which this is earlier than I thought, I guess. I don't remember Teflon really being around.

Jam:

Right. Yeah. Maybe it really was, like, kinda niche Earlier.

Melissa:

Maybe so.

Jam:

But, yeah, that's crazy.

Melissa:

But by 1948, DuPont was producing over 900 tons of Teflon per year.

Jam:

My gosh.

Melissa:

That's so much.

Jam:

Jeez.

Melissa:

And another company, also, three m, was starting to produce other PFAS as well. Both of these were in America. I believe West Virginia and Minnesota. Mhmm. And in state for sure, which also It just really struck me that as a chemist and someone in America, an American chemist, Both of these things happened with and by people that I share some identities with.

Melissa:

You know? It's like, I'm also an American chemist, And I think it just it goes back to that dark side of chemistry. You know? It's like so many good, amazing things happen from chemistry, but also So many bad things have happened with irresponsible chemists

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

Not paying attention to what's really happening.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

And so much throughout researching this, I was reminded of the radium girl story that I talked about last week where the it's just A lot Yeah. Of of irresponsibility, I think. And maybe in some cases, intentional, maliciousness. Yeah. So based on their uses and different manufacturings, different places in America have different water contaminants built up of different Types of PFAS.

Melissa:

So, for example, a lot of military bases will use, a certain type of foam to put out, Bad, like, chemical fires, I think. Uh-huh. So with areas that use a lot of that, like military bases and airports, You're more likely to have a higher contamination of that type of PFAS. Right. Whereas if you maybe have a clothing contamination or a clothing factory, maybe you have more contamination know, the kind that that they use for your raincoats.

Melissa:

And there's a really interesting map on, one of the papers that's linked in our resources where It kind of showed like, oh, this type of PFAS in blue and this type in pink and this type you know? And places where there's higher manufacturing had different colors, and then, like, Airports, the one that was associated with airports and military training was all over the United States. It was just wild. Yeah. And so thinking about that, like, where you live within the United States impacting what you're exposed to in the water is, like it's so clearly linked

Jam:

Yeah. That's

Melissa:

crazy. History. So, there's a lot of water contamination, now in the United States, but it seems like as Early as the 19 fifties, there was evidence that DuPont knew or was suspicious of the dangers of poly or perfluorinated alkyl substances, PFAS.

Jam:

Okay. Dang. Here's a question. Maybe you don't really assume it's not that important, but but Teflon just won p fast.

Melissa:

Right?

Jam:

Yeah. When they say Teflon, is it One, like, specific configuration. Like, only we only call this one Teflon.

Melissa:

Yes. I think so. I think just that, the original PTFE is Teflon, so it's also called C8.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

So I think it there's just like this, The it's a straight chain of carbons with all the fluorines on it. And I don't know if it's, like, if it's cross linked or not, if that would change whether or not Teflon. So if the polymer strands are connected to each other or if they're just all lined up, I don't know K. About that. Yeah.

Melissa:

But it does seem like Teflon Specifically, is just the polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE.

Jam:

Okay.

Melissa:

That's Teflon.

Jam:

Got it.

Melissa:

And then there are other ones that are That our branch or that you swap out a carbon for an oxygen, you're hoping that that'll make it easier to break it down, but it doesn't always.

Jam:

Mhmm. Okay.

Melissa:

And PFAS in general is, like, anything that has a unit of flooring that's swapped out

Jam:

on

Melissa:

these on these polymers. So Yeah. Okay. So here's a quote from a chemistry world. So that's the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Melissa:

They have a magazine that they put out or You know, with a lot of articles that aren't necessarily, like, scientific articles, but we know that they're very accurate. And so Here's a a really good quote from one of the articles that I linked to. And these all the resources I used today are really interesting, and I think they would be accessible to people who aren't chemists. So if you're interested, you can always go check those out as well. And 2 big ones came from chemistry world.

Melissa:

And then I did also use Teflon .com just to confirm that the original story was correct. But I didn't use them for anything else because They clearly have a vested interest. Right? Right. So, here's the quote.

Melissa:

Internal studies were identified, so that's internal to DuPont. Studies, I were identified ranging from 1961 to 1994 showing that DuPont had evidence of PFAS toxicity from internal animal and Occupational studies that it did not publish in the scientific literature and failed to report its findings to the EPA, which was required by the US toxic substance control act. These documents were all marked as confidential, and in some cases, industry executives were explicit that they wanted the memo destroyed.

Jam:

Dang.

Melissa:

No. Yikes. Yikes. That's pretty damning evidence. Yes.

Melissa:

So definitely some evidence that PFAS were toxic, and this is this brought up something that I wanted to highlight. And, I think we've talked about this a little bit before, but The funding source of studies matters. And a lot of times, people are like, well, if it's published, you know, and peer reviewed or whatever, then it must Be accurate. And I think that that's true to an extent, but, also, what can happen is what gets Submitted for publication can be controlled in a way that we don't know, even as, like Right. Journal editors, as people who review other people's, studies.

Melissa:

So there was a really interesting this is totally unrelated. I was doing some research for the podcast, and I went down a rabbit hole. And what a review article was published that to me seemed like a guy was just mad and trying to prove a point Uh-huh.

Jam:

Uh-huh.

Melissa:

Which was that The funding source of articles about, I think, the health effects of soda was what it was Uh-huh. Were there's a statistically significant SKU based on the funding company. Okay. And that doesn't even necessarily mean that their findings were false, but it's like you're much more likely to get the positive findings

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

If it's funded by a company, which Probably is because we're not seeing any of the negative company

Jam:

Right. Right.

Melissa:

Or negative findings. So the they have a vested interest in not publishing anything that's negative because you wanna keep your funding from them. Yeah. So even if it's from an independent source, if the funding originates From a company, you need funding to survive as a scientist. Right.

Melissa:

And so you have a vested interest in only Putting something out that gives a positive result.

Jam:

And even if it doesn't actually cause that every time Mhmm. It at least is putting pressure On those who are trying to write and publish their findings that it would be way better if it was not there.

Melissa:

Yes.

Jam:

Like, I'm guessing it's probably out there if you found with a story like this. Like, probably a company that was like, hey. Please do the study. Mhmm. And we do not Want you to hold back because we care about the public and blah blah blah, and we're a good company.

Jam:

There's probably a company out there

Melissa:

like that. At some point, it came out.

Jam:

Right? Least one.

Melissa:

Yeah. At

Jam:

least 1 out there. And then they're like, yeah. Please do it. Go for it and make it happen. But At the very least, that relationship between people doing the research and publishing it, and people funding it is gonna have some sort of Effect and create some sort of tension Yeah.

Jam:

Surely. Yeah. Whereas if it didn't exist at all, it wouldn't be there.

Melissa:

Yeah. And I do remember being in a seminar Shortly after our plastic series came out on the podcast, I was in a research seminar with someone who was funded by, Like, oil companies.

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

And his take was plastics aren't that bad. We use them all the time. And I was like, I just done all this research, and so I could see the skew that I think he genuinely believed In what his work was, and it was kind of unrelated, but the introduction and the foundation for his work was very much skewed by Plastics aren't that bad. Mhmm. You know, which is like I mean, plastics aren't that bad.

Melissa:

We do use them all the time, but you don't have to be their champion. So I think you just have to be really careful about that. And in this case, the people doing the studies were the people creating I mean, it was the people who had everything to gain. And so I don't want to put it past chemical companies to sub what's the word when you,

Jam:

Suppress. Mhmm.

Melissa:

To suppress information that would hurt their bottom line.

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

And I hate that because chemistry does so much good, but, also, I think this is where some of the toxic chemical Fear that people feel like, oh, chemicals are bad. It comes into it's like, well, yeah, chemicals have done bad things. People who are chemists have done bad things Yeah. You know, with their chemicals. So

Jam:

Yeah. And for most of us, like, lay people, it's a total black box. Yeah. Trying to show me, like, a report And me understand it and read it, like a published piece, you know, in a journal. One, understanding it would be difficult.

Jam:

Yeah. 2, understanding whether it's actually the whole picture or not Mhmm. And what Biases may be there or whatever. It's like it's all black box for us. So it's like, if someone says, hey.

Jam:

You should be scared as a chemical. It's kinda like, Well, I don't really have good evidence to counter what you're saying, so maybe I should be scared of it.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Jam:

Or someone's like, no. No. No. No. You don't need to be scared of that.

Melissa:

And you're like, fine.

Jam:

I don't have good evidence to counter what you're saying either. So it's

Melissa:

just like

Jam:

like, we gotta get dirt around a bit because we just don't know. I mean, I don't I don't know.

Melissa:

Kind of how I feel about silicone. I'm or silicone. You know? We did that. Yeah.

Melissa:

That's what kinda started it off. But I'm like, right now, I don't have good reason to be Afraid of this? Yeah. But that doesn't mean that that something's being suppressed. And I don't think that's a good reason to be afraid of everything, but I think it is a good reason to Keep your mind and your ears open Yep.

Melissa:

Now. It's hard. It's really hard. So 11950 9 study Looked at respiratory and skin exposure, which noted that influenza like attacks, so basically, like the flu Mhmm. We're present in occupational literature, and that was attributed at the time to smoking cigarettes that were contaminated with the PFAS.

Melissa:

But that tells me if in 1959, there was already stuff in the occupational literature, and they were already doing research to try to figure out what the impact of this was. That tells me that even before 1959, they knew That there was questionable things happening.

Jam:

Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa:

And in the chemistry world article, there was a lot of really awful stuff. So, Things like birth defects in babies, some workers that were in the, at they called it c 8, but around the Teflon, there was, in 1978, a personal and confidential memo found that there was elevated liver enzymes in DuPont employees. And, they also talked about how there was already PFAS in the bloodstream of the workers at that time. And this reminded me So much of I'm like, how could they have information about the liver enzymes of their employees and not do something? But that is exactly what happened with radium too.

Melissa:

It's like they knew that their employee's blood work wasn't normal, but they suppressed that information

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

Which feels so icky. Yeah. Like, at some point, you'd hope somebody would have done something.

Jam:

Right. Yeah. And it's like And maybe there are I don't know. Maybe there's people who are like, this might scare people. We don't even know if this is bad yet.

Melissa:

Maybe. Yeah.

Jam:

Not tell anyone.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Jam:

But and maybe and that's definitely ill advised, but maybe they're thinking, we don't wanna cause a panic. But there's probably some people who are like, This doesn't look good. Let's definitely not tell anyone. Yeah.

Melissa:

You know? I would say prior to 1990, there was a lot of or at least a good amount, enough that they should have been doing something I've documented evidence around liver toxicity, reproductive impacts, and other health issues like cancer, skin, things like that. Mhmm. So They could have done something. And one of the biggest things that I think could have happened is instead of them being used so widely as they are today is we could have started to you know, I feel like they became miracle coatings.

Melissa:

You know? These are so good for everything. I think we could have found ways to break them down because it's not impossible to break them down. Teaser for next episode.

Jam:

Mhmm.

Melissa:

And we would have been on top of that more sooner without them being Intaminated in water. And I think it would have allowed us to maybe find alternatives that possibly were safer. I mean, I guess, we wouldn't have known. And by the time they find out, they started to make alternatives that all seem to be just as bad so far, but There were other options. You know?

Melissa:

Instead of pushing Teflon pans on everyone, we could have gotten those out of homes and instead started to use cast iron. You know? Yep. So I think that was a big takeaway that I had is if we had if we had known if the public had known about this sooner, there would have Maybe we can have stopped what was already happening, but we could've kept it from being integrated into every area of our lives.

Jam:

Right. Right.

Melissa:

Because there were alternatives. You know? Pizza boxes Didn't have these before they existed. They were just pizza boxes. Yeah.

Melissa:

And food wrappers don't need this coating. You can just Put them in paper wrap. You know, there's other options that maybe they won't do as well, but they're still going to Get the job done, and they wouldn't have put us at such a risk. But now we have this stuff running rampant.

Jam:

Yep.

Melissa:

It's everywhere. So that's hard.

Jam:

Man.

Melissa:

I will say, something else that's challenging and And also goes similar to, what I read about, radium poisoning and companies involved in that. Is So DuPont made spin off companies for lack of a better word. Basically, their fluorochemistry, they Broke off into a different company, and then DuPont merged with Dow. And then, actually, DuPont split back off again. And so there's Been all these mergers and splits and breakups and get back togethers.

Melissa:

I was like, this is like a teen drama. But, essentially, the company originally that made PTFE doesn't exist anymore. I mean, they they exist in a way that they don't really have liability because they're like, our company never Made it. That was this company over here, you know, kind of so that's an interesting, twist. Mhmm.

Melissa:

But I will say as of this, Is it this June or this July? This June, several of the companies that originated from DuPont came together and reached a settlement where they agreed to pay just under $1,200,000,000 to settle PFAS related claims with regards to certain waterways in the United States. So that was very recently and part of how I thought this was a good time to address this, but it does seem like they're trying to take some responsibility now that they're being forced

Jam:

too. Yeah. Right.

Melissa:

So the fluorochemistry company is paying for the majority of it, but then some of the other companies also are paying for part of it. So that's how we got here.

Jam:

Man.

Melissa:

That's a little bit of the history of PFAS. I will say I got a very Fun email from a listener who works with PFAS who, shared some articles about, how we deal with PFAS in water. And, there is also very cool new video recently that came out from the American Chemical Society about another way that we could potentially, get rid of PFAS. So there's fun things on the horizon for the next episode. But for now, I just wanted to kind of talk about There is the, I think, the responsibility that chemists hold.

Melissa:

You know? It's it's that dark side of chemistry, but also, like, How did we get here?

Jam:

Right. You

Melissa:

know? And how can we keep this from happening again? I don't know how we could keep it happening keep it from happening again. It feels like it happens a lot with technology that seems so great and then makes a lot of money, but has Signs and symptoms that something's not quite right, a lot of that gets suppressed. So it's just a issue in chemistry, I guess, I wanted to bring up.

Jam:

Yeah. And it's really hard too because I feel like I mean, there's the excitement of discovery, the excitement of, like, this thing, you know, does things The other substances don't do or they're better.

Melissa:

Yeah. And So useful.

Jam:

Getting excited about applying in a bunch of ways Mhmm. Before you've really tested what could be the downsides. And some things may not even be obvious unless it's been out and people have been around it for years. You know? Mhmm.

Jam:

But then it's like, Okay. Cat's out of the bag. Now we're starting to see employees having these weird side effects or whatever. And it's like, there should be some way for it to not Either that's the only way we find out stuff. You know?

Jam:

Where it's like, oh, people are already being, like,

Melissa:

seriously sick.

Jam:

Yeah. Seriously affected Beyond just traces, like, in their blood, but, like, okay. They're getting flu like symptoms and stuff or, like, their birth defects. It's like gotta have some way of Having, you know, checkpoints earlier before we widely distribute something in the world.

Melissa:

Yeah. And what's weird to me thinking about this is I think of, oh, PFAS. That's become a hot topic in the last 10 or 15 years.

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

Right? This has been going on since the sixties. I mean Yeah. Diet Coke came around more recently than that. Diet Coke came on the scene in, like, the eighties.

Jam:

Right. Yep.

Melissa:

So this is technology that's older than Diet Coke. Okay? So so it feels like We've just started hearing about it. How did that happen? I mean, I guess we know, how it happened.

Melissa:

We just talked about it, but that's wild to me that Behind the scenes, they've been concerned since the sixties, and it really started to hit the market in the forties. Yeah. And we're just hearing about it now.

Jam:

I felt the other route so the first route could be, maybe, super careful, bunch of checkpoints before some things, like, really introduce into the world. Maybe the other route would be something like, if you've put something out there and something you really didn't expect and could not have necessarily Really tested for. Fresh becoming obvious, like, people are getting sick by it. Mhmm. Maybe we just normalize being like, hey, guys.

Jam:

Hey, everyone. We made this, and we actually think That we might need to put a pause on all this

Melissa:

stuff. Mistake.

Jam:

But, like, the we have a little bit of precedent for that. You got someone like, only story I can think of is Nobel making dynamite, and then Yeah. Reversing course being known for I I forget exactly the way that All those events took place, but we have the peace prize in there for him because he did that thing and then realized what he'd done.

Melissa:

And it was forgot that that happened.

Jam:

You know? Yeah. It's like you can just own it and be like, hey, everyone. You know? Sure.

Jam:

My reputation is gonna be a little

Melissa:

Yeah.

Jam:

Messed up because of this. But If someone had done that in the fifties, you did you say the 1st memos that were circulating were on the fifties?

Melissa:

In the fifties. Yeah.

Jam:

Someone done that then. We yeah. It would have been a little messy for a bit, but a lot of

Melissa:

even have heard about it anymore, probably.

Jam:

Nope. Or yeah. I mean, like, maybe we're taking a a few rounds of trying out. Oh, is it a different PFAS or, you know, different Yeah. Configuration, different branch off for cross linking or whatever that works better Or adding in the oxygen or something like that.

Jam:

Maybe we would've tried a bunch of things back then early. But if someone had been, like, very upfront with the public And then like, hey, guys. Maybe stop using this for this. Yeah. We're trying to figure this out.

Jam:

But then you get some trust Yeah. From the public. Like, oh, those scientists made this thing, and then also they cared about they were concerned about our well-being.

Melissa:

Mhmm.

Jam:

And maybe that's, like, The way to go. Because we can't surely, we can't prevent every unexpected

Melissa:

No. Certainly not. Certainly not.

Jam:

Thing like that.

Melissa:

And then we talk about that even with me on this in a small scale on this podcast. You know? If I make a mistake, As soon as I realize I've made a mistake, I I wanna know, and I do the best I can to correct it. And I I think on an individual level, maybe it's easy to have that ethic, but I wonder if there's a little bit of, like, a group think Thing that happens where you're just 1 person who's seeing these effects, and it feels, like, too big for you to tackle or something.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

You know? Like, only 1 person at the top has the full picture maybe, or I don't know. I could see that being really hard. And and I do think that, like, the EPA has a regulation that You're supposed to the US toxic substance control act. You're supposed to report those things, but if it's affecting, you know, Their income, their bottom line, I think it's hard to wanna do that.

Jam:

Yeah. You've put the interest of, like, ethics against Business. Yeah. Like, whenever those are opposed to each other, there are people who are gonna pick business.

Melissa:

Mhmm. And

Jam:

it'll be better if that wasn't even The choice. You know? If we were, like, a great if we had a really good track history of, like, rewarding those who are ethical Mhmm. That was, like, Really advantageous for you. Like, if we were if we're the most ethical company we could possibly be, we'll also make the most money.

Jam:

Yeah. That would be that would be cool.

Melissa:

But it doesn't usually work that way.

Jam:

Yeah. At least not not here at least.

Melissa:

And I do think, initially, nobody saw problems with it. I mean, like, the scientists who were making it were also using There's a story of somebody using Teflon on their fishing hooks, and then his wife was like, I wish I could put this on my pants. I would make it so much easier to clean them. You know? And Mhmm.

Jam:

I don't

Melissa:

think you'd knowingly bring that into your home. It also kinda reminds me of, like, social media where some of the people who work for social media companies, like, don't let their families have it. And Yep. Yep. You know?

Melissa:

So it it just feels like it it wasn't that insidious where they were like, no. This can't come into my house. But I'm wondering at what point it That that insidious or

Jam:

Right.

Melissa:

Yeah. So it's it's just kind of an interesting look back at how we ended up where we are.

Jam:

Yep.

Melissa:

And, maybe if anyone listening to this podcast or works for a chemical company and you know that something's happening On a wide scale that shouldn't be happening or even on a small scale. If you see see something, say something. Yeah. The EPA's right there. Who knows what they'll do, but at least you'll know you did it.

Melissa:

Yeah. So, anyway, I thought that that was a good chance to look back at how we got here and kind of the, like, Dark side of, chemistry and also, like, be accountable for the for the The peep the people my people. The chemists. That's what they did. You know?

Melissa:

And so the next week, I'm gonna bring us the happy What we can do about the heathen, what is happening about the heathen right now.

Jam:

Nice.

Melissa:

And I'm really excited to share that with you, and our listener's email was really good that I'm excited about too. So

Jam:

Awesome.

Melissa:

So yeah. And I got a lot of really good feedback about this. A lot of people reached out and shared things. It was really fun. So thanks for all you who did that.

Jam:

Nice.

Melissa:

Well, that's what I have for us. There's not really a good chemistry lesson this week. You already kind of did Explain back the polymer itself.

Jam:

It's core yeah. It was sort of like story time, which I like. I like we occasionally have these sort of, like, Here's the history of this. Here's how this came to be, and I'm, yeah, cool with that. I love it.

Melissa:

So let's end on a happy note and talk about something that's making us happy instead of This is making us sad.

Jam:

Great. I've got a happy thing to share.

Melissa:

Actually, Jam started to tell me this and then said, nope. Never mind.

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

I'm gonna save it.

Jam:

It's funny though because it's a it's a happy note, but it is mirrors what we're talking about a little bit in this sort of Scientific world. So I'm behind. So a lot of you viewers will be like like, jeez, finally. I saw that forever ago. But Just last week you know, keep in mind, I have 2 kids, and, I'm a film nerd, but that took a Serious back seat.

Jam:

Back, back, back seat as soon as kids came into the picture. Yeah. Finally, went by myself on a weeknight, late at night, To the, like, 9:45 PM showing of Oppenheimer.

Melissa:

Oh, that sounds kinda nice.

Jam:

Which was nice. Yeah. And I I, had prepped for a little. I'd drink some coffee later and so like that, so I was I was ready. And when saw that, and it was so Good.

Jam:

Such a good movie. And I

Melissa:

to confess that I have not seen it, and I don't actually even know what it's about.

Jam:

I know you haven't seen it. And I know that I mentioned one time, and you were like, what's that?

Melissa:

Yeah. So I realized when barbed and hammer was the big thing, I knew that it existed, but I have

Jam:

Yep.

Melissa:

I've really not sought out any information about it.

Jam:

So I'll tell you just a little, like, a little teaser. Okay. It's just that It's about, J. Robert Oppenheimer Okay. Who is the father of the atomic bomb.

Jam:

Mhmm. So a scientist. He was a physicist, mostly in theoretical Businesses, and it was his, like, main area of expertise. And, it's his story's kinda famous. I remember doing this, like, deep dive.

Jam:

There's times where I would go, like, into a Wikipedia Whole. Yeah. You know, and just read everything I could. I remember sometime in either high school or college reading everything I could about this guy because I was just curious. I was like, this happened, And this guy seems like he was very responsible

Melissa:

for it.

Jam:

And what how'd that happen? You know? And, like, you read there's a little bit about That in the World War 2 section of your history books, but they don't do, like, a ton Yeah. On the science of the atomic bomb and stuff. And he He helped with it, and then I won't give too many details, but classic Nobel situation, regretted Some of the things that happened

Melissa:

Is that what the movie's about? Mhmm. Wow.

Jam:

So it's a it's a really full breadth of his story, and it's very Tied to his story. It's not trying to be like yeah. It's very tied to his perspective, and how it motivates him and and different things, and it It's running time a little bit, but it is a fascinating movie, beautifully shot, great acting. It's like yeah. All the boxes checked for a film nerd like me, but I think what's great about it is despite it being like a like, very history, very science, I think they did a great job at not dumbing that down Mhmm.

Jam:

Too much, but still making it very appealing and interesting to the average viewer.

Melissa:

Wow. So should I go watch it?

Jam:

Yes. You should.

Melissa:

Is it gonna make me sad, you think?

Jam:

I don't think so. I I think there's I don't know. I think it depends on how you look at Because if you look at it one way, it's like, oh, right. That happened in history. That sucks.

Jam:

Like, that that's sad. And it's, like, messy. There's a lot to, like That was before our time, but now we're being faced with the details about it.

Melissa:

Yeah. But on the other

Jam:

hand, it's like, oh, someone was involved in something, and then they really had second thoughts about it. And we're trying to help sort of correct what they did. Yeah. And that's, you know

Melissa:

That's good. That's what we're just talking about.

Jam:

Yep. So it's kind of perfect. But it is you don't leave feeling, like, amazing, but it's not trying to also make you feel horrible either.

Melissa:

Yeah. That's what

Jam:

I would say.

Melissa:

Nice.

Jam:

So, anyway, that was mine.

Melissa:

That's good. Finally, I

Jam:

have to see a movie. What about you?

Melissa:

I finally had to go camping. Did I share about this or not? I don't remember.

Jam:

I think maybe you did. Well, last week, we recorded just a q and r.

Melissa:

Yeah. I don't think so. Didn't

Jam:

then. Yeah.

Melissa:

So I finally got to go camping. I've been wanting to go, car camping for a while, but we didn't have the appropriate vehicle. So we got our new car, And then we went car camping in New Mexico, and it was so fun. I have my personal TikTok where I try to, like, made some videos about it. You can go look at that if you want.

Melissa:

It's just like it was so pretty. Yeah. And there's just something my mother-in-law says I don't like bugs, bad guys, or bears. Mhmm. And that's It's really accurate.

Melissa:

Like, the idea of sleeping outside in a tent with no walls between me and the bugs, the bad guys, or the bears Mhmm. Is not It's not good for my anxiety.

Jam:

Did she say that about herself or about you?

Melissa:

About me. Okay. She's like, Melissa doesn't like the 3 b's. And I was like, they're gonna think you're talking about There will be.

Jam:

That's so funny. I was thinking that she that she said that about herself, but it's funny that she had you pegged

Melissa:

that way. We had a conversation about it. It was like, For a while, we thought we would be camping in tents there, and I was my excitement immediately plummeted.

Jam:

Interesting.

Melissa:

Yeah. And then when we got the car and I realized for sure we're gonna be car camping. I was like, yes. Nice. So I'm pretty happy.

Melissa:

I, had so much fun. The weather was Beautiful there. It was so nice to not be hot. Texas is in smack dab in the middle of a heat dome right now. It's hot here.

Melissa:

It's, like, hotter than I ever remember it being

Jam:

Yeah.

Melissa:

My whole life. And so it's just nice to get out and to be somewhere beautiful by the river and by trees, and it was cold. I was cold

Jam:

Sometime. Wow. Nice.

Melissa:

I know. That's amazing.

Jam:

Yeah. It's currently 102, and that is, like, relatively mild compared to the days we've had Yes. The past couple weeks?

Melissa:

It's been, like, 109 every day Yeah. Basically.

Jam:

Yep.

Melissa:

We're breaking all kinds of records. Yeah. But that was

Jam:

in a cool way. Not in

Melissa:

a cool way. In a hot way. Yeah.

Jam:

That's great that you got a break from the heat and got to, Yeah. Go spend time outdoors in nature, be around. Yeah. That's awesome.

Melissa:

We got a really nice comfy camping bed. It was pretty expensive, but we're like, okay. This is like it was like, $350 or whatever. We were like, okay. This is expensive, but if we if we sleep on it for, like, 3 nights, it's basically the equivalent of a hotel.

Jam:

Yep. Good point.

Melissa:

So we've slept on it for, I think, 3 nights now, I think. There you go. And we've already planned our next camping trip in, we're gonna go to Beavers Bend in Oklahoma Nice. Which is, like, only a few hours away. Yeah.

Melissa:

And it feels a little bit like Colorado. It's like trees and rivers and hills. So it's nice.

Jam:

It's a closer version of it. Yeah. That's awesome.

Melissa:

So, yeah, that was my happy thing is, nature and just taking a unplugged break where I was like Nice. Just very in the moment is great.

Jam:

Very great. That's awesome. I'm jealous.

Melissa:

Yeah. Well, maybe one day you and your Kiddos can come camping with us. That'd be fun.

Jam:

That'd be very fun.

Melissa:

We do have big dreams of that happening someday.

Jam:

Yes. Someday.

Melissa:

But now I just we gotta get them to the right age. Yep. Okay.

Jam:

Well, thanks for recounting The history?

Melissa:

Yes. Thanks for listening and for cheering me up at the end. I was like, but now I'm like, oh, that was fun. Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa:

Thanks for listening. Thanks to you and all of our listeners for listening and wanting to learn and for all the great feedback you gave about the episode. That was awesome.

Jam:

Thanks for teaching us, and thanks for being able to being willing to open up this series. That's tough and and Very, very current, but we really appreciate that. And if you have questions or ideas, things you would think are chemistry, that you wanna ask us about. Please do that. We love all questions and ideas.

Jam:

You can reach out to us on our website at kim for your life.com. That's Kim, foryourlife.com is here with thoughts and ideas. If you'd like to help us keep our show going and contribute to cover the cost of making it, you can go to patreon.com/chem for your life, or check the link in our show notes or in the show description to join our super cool community of patrons. And if you're not able to do that, you can stop us by Scribing on your favorite podcast app and rating and writing a review on a podcast or subscribing on YouTube and commenting something cool on our YouTube videos. Those things help us to share chemistry with even more people.

Melissa:

Financial supporters over on Patreon. It means so much to us that you wanna help us make Camstreet accessible to even more people. Those supporters are Latila s, Bree m, Avishai b, Brian k, Chris and Claire s, Chelsea b, Derek l, Emerson w, Hunter r, Jacob t, Christina g, Katrina h, Lynn s, Melissa p, Nicole c, Nelly s, Steven b, Shadow Suzanne p, Timothy p, and Venus r. Thank you again for everything you do to make chemistry free life happen.

Jam:

And if you'd like to learn more about today's chemistry lesson, you can check out the references for this episode in our show notes or in the description of the video.

Melissa:

Yay, chemistry. Yay, chemistry.