How do you solve a problem like PFAS?

They’re in firefighting foam, non-stick pans, cosmetics, clothes and packaging – and they keep your phone clear of fingerprints. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were once hailed as wonder materials, but these compounds also have a dark side that’s earned them the nickname “forever chemicals”. The attributes that made them so attractive also makes them hard to clean up. They get into our drinking water, our food, and even into our blood. They don’t degrade. And some are carcinogenic.

In the United States, a landmark settlement will see 3M, one of the largest makers of PFAS chemicals, pay A$16 billion to clean up waterways. But in Australia, so far the public has footed the bill for the cleanup of polluted defence bases and firefighting training grounds.

That needs to change, as UTS experts Sarah Wilson and Rachael Wakefield-Rann write today. The more we look, the more PFAS contamination we find – mines and airports in Western Australia, water treatment plants in Queensland, tunneling projects in Victoria. The expense will be enormous. Why, ask Wilson and Wakefield-Rann, should the taxpayer have to pay?

Doug Hendrie

Deputy Environment + Energy Editor

Chemicals, forever: how do you fix a problem like PFAS?

Sarah Wilson, University of Technology Sydney; Rachael Wakefield-Rann, University of Technology Sydney

In Australia, the taxpayer has footed the bill for the forever chemical clean-up so far. But this will have to change.

National cabinet to meet on violence against women, with Albanese saying everyone ‘must do better’

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Tackling violence against women will be the sole agenda item for a Wednesday national cabinet meeting.

Have smartphones created an ‘anxious generation’? Jonathan Haidt sounds the alarm

Hugh Breakey, Griffith University

A new book argues that the first generation to go through puberty connected to their smartphones have had their brains rewired for depression and anxiety.

Women’s sport is soaring, and old-school male sports journalists need to lift their game

Brigid McCarthy, La Trobe University

While overt sexualisation of women in sports is now rarer, sports media needs a more diverse range of voices to help fight misogyny.

We looked at genetic clues to depression in more than 14,000 people. What we found may surprise you

Jacob Crouse, University of Sydney; Ian Hickie, University of Sydney

Our study turns a common way of thinking about depression on its head, which may influence how people are treated.

Mind-bending maths could stop quantum hackers, but few understand it

Nalini Joshi, University of Sydney

A flawed paper shakes confidence in the foundations of ‘quantum-proof’ encryption – and highlights the need for a new generation of experts.

Australians are having fewer babies and our local-born population is about to shrink: here’s why it’s not that scary

Amanda Davies, The University of Western Australia

So few babies are Australians having that, without migration, Australia’s population would be on track to turn down from 2037.

We’re all feeling the collective grief and trauma of violence against women – but this is the progress we have made so far

Anastasia Powell, RMIT University; Asher Flynn, Monash University

It has been a distressing time. Australians have been – and will continue – taking action to end gender-based violence. So, are we making any progress? Here’s what the data show.

I had no photos of my mother’s pregnancy and migration, so I found a way for AI to help fill in the gaps

Sara Oscar, University of Technology Sydney

Since last year, I have been working on a project with my Thai mother who migrated to Australia in 1974 while pregnant with me. To fill in the archive, we’ve been looking towards AI.

Politics + Society

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    Kim Hemsley, Flinders University; Nicholas Smith, University of Adelaide; Siti Mubarokah, Flinders University

    Children with childhood dementia progressively lose all previously acquired skills and abilities, such as talking, walking, learning, remembering and reasoning.

Science + Technology

Environment + Energy

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