Disease has two basic causes: nutritional deficiency and toxicity. We’ve talked a lot about strengthening immunity with nutrients like vitamins A, C and D; minerals like zinc and selenium; and fats like the omega-3 fatty acids. But protecting your cellular machinery from toxins that gum up the works is just as important.
A case in point is a group of toxic, man-made chemicals called PFAS (per- and profluoroalkyls), the best-known of which, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), is the key ingredient in Teflon-coated pots and pans. But PFAS have many other applications and are used in a variety of non-stick, stain-resistant and water-repellent coatings in everything from rugs and upholstery to pizza cartons and dental floss.
PFAS are harmful to nearly every human organ and cause or contribute to all kinds of disease. Arthritis, cancer, asthma, allergies, hormone abnormalities—particularly reproductive and thyroid issues, obesity, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, heart disease, liver disease and ulcerative colitis have all been linked with higher levels of PFAS in the bloodstream. Pregnant women with higher levels can have children with low birth weights, birth defects, lower IQs, learning disabilities and/or developmental disorders.
What’s more, PFAS are extremely hardy. Called “forever chemicals,” they resist being broken down in the environment and in the human body. (PFOA has a half-life in humans of about four years.) The Environmental Working Group, a research, advocacy and educational organization that focuses on environmental toxins, found PFOA in 100% of people they tested in a series of “body burden” studies. Pregnant women pass PFAS along to their unborn children through their umbilical cords.
PFAS also interfere with and weaken our immune systems.
In a landmark study published in 2008, researchers studied 69,000 residents contaminated by PFOA pollution from a nearby DuPont chemical plant. One thing the researchers observed was that people who had higher PFOA levels had lower levels of antibodies.
Antibodies are key players in the immune system. They identify and neutralize pathogens like viruses and bacteria. In fact vaccines do their work by alerting the immune system it needs to create and train antibodies to recognize new pathogens.
Animal studies have also linked higher PFAS with lower numbers of antibodies, and human studies in both children and adults have found even relatively low levels of PFAS are associated with significant reductions in antibody response to measles, influenza, tetanus, and diphtheria vaccines.
In other words, PFAS have the ability to cripple our immune systems in building immunity to infectious pathogens, and to hamper the effectiveness of any vaccine that utilizes this natural function.
Like so many toxins in our environment, PFAS operate outside our awareness. We don’t see them, smell them or feel them. Yet they have deadly consequences, especially when you’re dealing with not just one but multiple toxic exposures.
To learn more about toxins, their impact on our health, how to avoid them and how to rid our bodies of those we can’t avoid, read any of Raymond Francis’ books. To learn how to avoid PFCs, see our next Newsclip.
- Stoiber T. PFAS chemicals harm the immune system, decrease response to vaccines, new EWG review finds. Environmental Working Group. June 21, 2019.
- Environmental Working Group. Widespread chemical linked to higher cholesterol in children, teens. News Release. September 8, 2010.
- Renner R. It’s in the microwave popcorn, not the Teflon pan. Environmental Science & Technology. January 2006;40(1):4.
- Naidenko O. Credibility gap: toxic chemicals in food packaging. Environmental Working Group. June 9, 2008