The stuff in your trash is staying around longer than you think, and affecting your health!

The stuff in our trash is taken and thrown in landfills. In those landfills our trash is sitting around and breaking apart into different little pieces. In these tiny pieces are a special group of chemicals made up of carbon, hydrogen, fluorine, and other atoms that are sticking around way too long. This particular group of chemicals are given the title PFAs, but have earned the nickname “forever chemicals”. These forever chemicals are man made and are in just about everything that you can think of. The problem with these PFAs is that, recent science has shown being around a lot of these chemicals causes cancer and other big issues to people. The harm being done to people is the reason that the science must be done to figure out how these compounds are moving from places like landfills so that a way to stop it can be found.

In our experiment we wanted to know how far different sizes of these forever chemicals travelled from the place they came from.To test our experiment dirt was collected from Rose Creek, Tecolote Creek, and Mission Bay, in San Diego, which are all down stream from a landfill, where our trash is. Before we did any testing we thought that the small PFAs would move farther in the water than the big ones, because their bigger size makes them move less. The hope was to get enough dirt from different places that are closer or farther, to the trash in the landfill, so that we could tell how far the big or small forever chemicals were moving in the water.

To test our first thought we got a lot of dirt from three different places. The dirt was then prepared for the testing machine in a special way, that was made for PFAs. Once all the dirt was ready it was put in a machine, which told us how many and what kind of forever chemicals were in the dirt that we collected.

When we found out what kind and how many forever chemicals were in the dirt we had to see how far they were from the trash. What we found was that the dirt farther away from the trash had more small forever chemicals, and the dirt close to the trash had more big forever chemicals. In order to tell that we had done good science we used other peoples work, who did a similar test, and compared our results with theirs. When we compared our science to other people’s science we found that our results were the same as theirs!

In our experiment we wanted to find out how far different sizes of forever chemicals moved in the water from the trash in the local San Diego landfill. What we found is that the small PFAs were in the dirt farther from the trash and the big ones were in the dirt closer to the trash, just like we thought! Now that we know how these forever chemicals can move in San Diego waterways we still need to know how to get rid of them. One experiment that we are exploring is the use of plants to take the forever chemicals out of the dirt, but that is for another blog! Thank you!

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