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Scrutinized chemicals linger in atmosphere

Don't look up now, but new research indicates that industrial chemicals called fluorotelomer alcohols, or FTOHs, may remain suspended in the air for several weeks on average. Their longevity in the atmosphere suggests that they may widely disperse before degrading into durable environmental contaminants that have been found far from industrialized areas.

FTOHs are ingredients in many consumer products, including paints, polishes, adhesives, waxes, and stain-repellent coatings. Gradually, the chemicals escape into the air. Some scientists presume that FTOHs and related alcohols break down into extremely durable, so-called perfluorinated chemicals, which are widespread in the environment and have recently been found to accumulate in and harm animals (SN: 8/30/03, p. 142: Available to subscribers at Nonstick but not nontoxic).

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