Nonstick,” “waterproof” and “stain-resistant” are all commonplace terms that are self-explanatory.

But the “forever chemicals” behind the coatings that give products the ability to resist grease, water and oil are not so well-known, it turns out.

A new study conducted by AgriLife scientists at Texas A&M University is the first generalized survey in the United States to test public awareness and knowledge of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) forever chemicals. The researchers found that most Americans have no knowledge of the substances and are not aware of their potential associated risks, a press release from the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) said.

“This is the first survey of its kind, and what we found is that the vast majority of people do not have a clear understanding of PFAS,” said Allen Berthold, interim director of TWRI and the study’s lead author, in the press release.

There are thousands of manufactured chemicals that fall under the category of PFAS. They are an ever-growing threat to the environment and human health, as they are not easily broken down or gotten rid of. This is because they have one of the strongest possible chemical bonds, that of the molecules carbon and fluorine.

The study, “Let’s talk about PFAS: Inconsistent public awareness about PFAS and its sources in the United States,” was published in the journal PLOS One.

Since the 1940s, PFAS compounds have been used in products from nonstick cookware to food wrappers and many other consumer products, as well as in firefighting foam, according to the press release. PFAS levels have been found in foodsoil and air, and toxic amounts have been detected in U.S. drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a national drinking water standard for PFAS in March. However, most consumers have no idea there is a problem.

Read the full article about forever chemicals by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes at EcoWatch.