Though invisible to the naked eye, hazardous chemicals are present everywhere. They are lurking in almost every product that we use in our daily lives. While all chemicals are a matter of serious concern, PFAS has drawn particular attention due to their pervasive nature.
Be it non-stick cookware, food packaging, cleaning products, including laundry and dishwasher detergents, cosmetics, or waterproof textiles, PFAS are lurking everywhere. Surprisingly, the water that we drink and the air that we breathe also contain PFAS.
Consumer reports recently discovered that PFAS is linked to a host of adverse health effects, including kidney disease and lowered immunity in kids. To keep yourself safe from the health effects associated with PFAS, limiting exposure is important.
In this guide, we’ll share a few tips to mitigate your risk of PFAS at home.
What is PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often abbreviated as PFAS, are a large, complex group of man-made chemicals. Comprising over 4,700 chemicals, these synthetic compounds have been used in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. Its stain, water, and grease-resistant properties have contributed to its popularity.
The problem with this synthetic chemical is that it doesn’t disintegrate. Where other chemicals slowly decompose, PFAS don’t. Instead, it steadily cycles through and builds up in the environment. Hence, it is rightly named forever chemicals.
Health Effects Associated With PFAS
An estimated 98% of Americans have forever chemicals in their blood. In Germany, every child has PFAS in their body. This is concerning because this chemical is linked with adverse health outcomes in humans. Exposure to PFAS, even at low levels, is extremely toxic to humans.
The ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) has recognized the following health effects as potential consequences of PFAS exposure:
- Increased risk of certain cancers, including testicular and kidney
- Increased risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia
- Changes in the immune system and reactions to various vaccines
- Changes in liver enzyme levels and cholesterol levels
While the primary sources of exposure to forever chemicals are thought to include food, air, indoor dust, and water, several studies have demonstrated that people working in certain occupations have high exposure to PFAS. These include chemicals manufacturing and processing and firefighting industries.
Reportedly, occupational exposure to PFAS increases firefighters’ risk of developing several types of cancers. Exposure to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is believed to increase firefighters’ risk of cancer. While it’s highly effective in suppressing fires, AFFF contains PFAS.
Studies have reported elevated risks of testicular and prostate cancers and myeloma among those exposed to PFAS. Higher incidences of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have also been observed in firefighters due to PFAS exposure. In Florida firefighters, the risk of thyroid and skin cancers was high, besides prostate and testicular cancers.
As a result, firefighters are filing lawsuits against manufacturers of AFFF.
In the lawsuit, firefighters assert that exposure to PFAS caused them to develop cancer. Further, the plaintiffs in the AFFF lawsuit allege that manufacturers knew of the potential dangers associated with PFAS, yet they failed to warn them. ChemDesign Inc., Chemours, DuPont, 3M, and Tyco Fire Products are a few defendants in the AFFF lawsuit.
Besides civilian and military firefighters, workers of chemical manufacturing plants and petroleum plants are at the highest risk of developing complications due to AFFF and PFAS exposure, notes TorHoerman Law.
Regarding the latest AFFF lawsuit update, over 6,000 individual lawsuits are filed nationwide. However, no settlements have been reached yet.
Actionable Tips to Limit Your Exposure to PFAS
Here are some simple things you can do to mitigate your risk of PFAS exposure:
1. Choose PFAS-Free Cookware and Utensils
Teflon coating used in non-stick pans contains PFAS. While Teflon is considered a safe compound, it starts to break down when exposed to high temperatures. As a result, it leaches into food.
Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of non-stick cookware. Cast iron, ceramic, and stainless steel pans are safe alternatives. Instead of non-stick utensils, opt for stainless steel variants, as that will limit your exposure to PFAS.
2. Get Rid of Water and Stain-Resistant Carpets and Fabrics
Stain and water-resistant treatments, most commonly found on clothing like raincoats and household items like carpets, contain forever chemicals. While PFAS are unlikely to get absorbed by your skin, these fabrics shed fibers that can travel as dust. As a result, you will inhale or ingest PFAS.
When shopping for carpets or other fabrics, choose products that are labeled as PFAS-free.
3. Install a High-Quality Water Filter
As drinking water is a source of PFAS, consider installing a water filter. We advise you so because water filters are highly effective in diminishing the levels of PFAS in water.
Reverse osmosis filters are usually recommended for tap waters, but they cost several hundred dollars. Activated carbon filter systems are the second-best option, so you can go for them.
While it’s impossible to get rid of PFAS completely, laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group reveal that filters reduce the levels of PFAS in tap water.
With every other item containing PFAS, keeping it out of your life is relatively impossible. However, cutting down on products loaded with them can limit your exposure to forever chemicals.
Limiting takeaways and avoiding cosmetics that contain PFAS are other ways to avoid PFAS at home. As PFAS are ubiquitous, preventing exposure to them completely is challenging. However, these small steps can help mitigate your PFAS risk.