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Lithium-ion batteries have a forever chemical problem

A cellphone with a cracked screen seen in a pile of trash.
A broken cellphone with a rechargeable battery lies in a collection container for hazardous materials at a waste sorting facility. | Photo by Jens Büttner / picture alliance via Getty Images

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in everyday gadgets, electric vehicles, and to store renewable energy could be a growing source of the “forever chemicals” that pollute soil and waterways, new research suggests.

“Forever chemicals” encompass thousands of different kinds of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). For decades, they’ve been used to make products more resistant to water, stains, and heat. More recently, a particular subclass of PFAS called bis-perfluoroalkyl sulfonimides (bis-FASIs) has been used as electrolytes and binders in lithium-ion batteries.

Those bis-FASIs are now showing up in soil, sediment, water, and snow surrounding manufacturing facilities, according to research published yesterday in the journal N…

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