We want to believe all of the items we encounter during our day-to-day lives are safe, but unfortunately, we’ve recently discovered that widely used substances could have serious health effects.
There are thousands of forever chemicals out there that can harm you. So, how do you go about handling the health implications of forever chemicals?
To start, it’s important to know what these chemicals are and where you can find them.
What Is PFAS?
Chemists discovered Teflon by accident in 1938 when a refrigerant gas suddenly solidified. After further evaluation, they discovered that the substance was incredibly stable, very slippery, non-corrosive, and had an impressively high melting point. Two decades later, the non-stick Teflon pan flew off the shelves for the first time.
What the chemists failed to realize during Teflon’s discovery was that it’s a polyfluoroalkyl substance. Since then, scientists discovered an additional 6,000 poly and perfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS.
PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they can go thousands of years before disintegrating.
Your PFAS Exposure
Research predicts that 97% of Americans have PFAS in their blood from exposure to a variety of sources. Once something is exposed to a product created with PFAS, it can carry it as well. You could be exposed to PFAS through certain manufactured products, including:
- Food wrappers and foods held in them
- Drinking water (both public and well water)
- Furniture upholstery
- Non-stick cookware
- Fire extinguisher foam
With thousands of PFAS sources out there, it may seem like there’s no point in trying to avoid them. However, significant exposure to PFAS can have serious health effects.
Health Risks Of PFAS
Recent scientific studies show that exposure to PFAS can lead to decreased fertility, increased preeclampsia risk, low birth rate, accelerated puberty, bone defects, hormonal changes, behavior changes, various cancers, reduced immunity, increased cholesterol, and increased obesity risk.
With these risks and possibly more, it’s worth avoiding any future exposure to PFAS.
Thankfully, more brands are ditching PFAS – and there are alternatives to other products as well. However, it’s important to note which industries are most likely to expose you so you can conduct research accordingly.
- Avoid non-stick cookware – Even pans that stay they are PFAS-free can contain other forever chemicals, which can release toxic fumes when heated. If you can’t get new cookware right away, keep it under 400 degrees and don’t use any cleaning items that can scratch the surface.
- Avoid to-go containers – Many fast food and restaurant to-go containers contain PFAS.
- Get untreated carpet – Most carpet treatments contain PFAS.
- Make homemade popcorn – Several microwaveable popcorn bags contain PFAS, which can leach into the popcorn.
- Avoid PFAS-coated dental floss – Several types of dental floss use PFAS, including some from Glide and Oral-B.
- Steer clear of stain-resistant fabrics – Avoid furniture coating and treatment with Scotchguard and other stain-resistant treatments.
- Avoid water-resistant clothes and sports gear – These items are often made with PFAS.
- Read the labels – Reading product labels can help you see if PFAS is in a product. Be sure to research any parts you’re unfamiliar with.
PFAS is already so prevalent that it’s hard to control. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to put regulations in place to reduce PFAS exposure.
The EPA is campaigning to classify PFAS as a hazardous substance and working to monitor and reduce contaminated sites and monitor the level of PFAS in drinking water. They are also furthering research into the impact of PFAS.
Several companies are working to phase PFAS out of their products to avoid future contamination. The Centers for Disease Control and other organizations are working to educate the public about PFAS and its effects.
You’ve likely already been exposed to PFAS through a variety of items, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce and eventually halt your exposure. With the right research and knowledge, you can work to avoid them in the future and avoid increasing your chances of experiencing negative health effects.