PFAS (per- and profluoroalkyls) are a group of toxic man-made chemical compounds used in a variety of non-stick, water-repellent, and grease and stain-resistant applications. Detrimental to just about every body organ, they’ve been associated with a host of diseases including weakened immune function, cancer, and developmental problems in children.
Unfortunately, PFOA, the best known of the PFAS, is found in just about all Americans, and has a half-life in humans of about four years. After a lot of bad press, PFOA and its close cousin, PFOS, were banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so their levels in our bodies are going down. But they’re being rapidly replaced by new PFAS that, according to environmental advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), are just as bad.
No level of PFAS is desirable in the human body. And since there doesn’t seem to be any way to facilitate their removal (even sweating in an infrared sauna didn’t help to clear PFOA or PFOS), avoiding PFAS wherever you can is key.
Avoid Non-Stick Cookware:PFAS are most commonly associated with Teflon cookware, which can emit PFAS fumes into the air and transfer PFAS into food. Although not the major source of PFAS once feared (largely because it is baked during its manufacturing process, which allows much of the PFAS to “outgas”), non-stick cookware is sketchy at best, and many brands that boast they have no PFAS are made with worse chemicals. The higher the heat used, the more PFAS are likely to escape and leech into your food.
- Avoid stain-resistant carpets and furniture
- Avoid stain-resistant or water-repellent clothing
- Avoid anything tagged Teflon®, Scothgard™, Stainmaster®, Gore-Tex®
- Choose personal care products without “PTFE,” “fluoro” or “perfluoro” in the ingredients
- Avoid greasy packaged fast foods, candy wrappers and pizza box liners
- Use real paper plates instead of paper
Pop popcorn on the stovetop. Microwave popcorn bags are often coated with PFAs on the inside, and are considered a major source of PFAS.
PFAS are also found in: some floor waxes and wax removers, some cleaning products, some dental floss, and most linings in bags of pet food.
Use an RO-carbon filter water purifier. Our public water system is a major source of PFAS. The EPA does not regulate the amount of PFAs in public water; rather, it “advises” a level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). However, experts in the field believe levels should not be higher than 1 ppt.
President Biden has made dealing with PFAS a priority in his 2022 budget, which, according to the EWG, provides $75 million to “accelerate critical toxicity studies of PFAS and to designate PFAS as ‘hazardous substances,’ which will speed the cleanup of contamination and ensure that polluters share that cost.” Biden has also pledged to set a national drinking water standard for PFAS and has proposed spending $10 billion to upgrade water treatment infrastructure to address PFAS pollution.
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- Amarelo M. EWG applauds “forever chemicals” provisions in Biden budget. Environmental Working Group. April 9, 2021.