PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals that have been widely used in various products, such as nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, firefighting foams, and cosmetics. They are also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily in the environment or in the human body.
However, PFAS chemicals are not harmless. In fact, they have been linked to a range of serious health problems, such as cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immune system dysfunction, and reproductive harm. According to a 2022 review by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, PFAS exposure can also increase the risk of metabolic disorders, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
If you are concerned about PFAS chemicals and their impact on your health, here are some practical tips and advice on how to reduce your exposure and protect yourself and your family.
How to Avoid PFAS Chemicals in Your Food and Water
One of the main sources of PFAS exposure is through food and water. PFAS chemicals can contaminate food crops, livestock, seafood, and drinking water through environmental pollution or packaging materials. Here are some ways to avoid PFAS chemicals in your food and water:
- Choose organic or locally grown fruits and vegetables whenever possible. They are less likely to be contaminated by PFAS chemicals from pesticides or fertilizers.
- Avoid or limit processed foods, especially those that come in grease-resistant wrappers or containers. They may contain PFAS chemicals that can leach into the food.
- Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead of nonstick pans. Nonstick coatings may contain PFAS chemicals that can release toxic fumes when heated.
- Filter your tap water using a certified filter that can remove PFAS chemicals. You can check the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) water filter guide for more information on how to choose the right filter for your needs.
- Avoid bottled water unless you know it is tested for PFAS chemicals. Some bottled water brands may contain PFAS chemicals from the plastic bottles or the source water.
How to Avoid PFAS Chemicals in Your Personal Care Products
Another source of PFAS exposure is through personal care products, such as cosmetics, shampoos, toothpastes, and sunscreen. PFAS chemicals are often added to these products to enhance their performance, durability, or appearance. However, they can also be absorbed through the skin or ingested when applied to the lips or teeth. Here are some ways to avoid PFAS chemicals in your personal care products:
- Read the labels carefully and look for ingredients that contain the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro”. These are likely to be PFAS chemicals. You can also check the EWG’s Skin Deep database for more information on the safety and ingredients of various personal care products.
- Choose natural or organic personal care products whenever possible. They are less likely to contain PFAS chemicals or other harmful substances.
- Avoid waterproof or long-lasting cosmetics, such as mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, and foundation. They may contain PFAS chemicals that can stay on your skin for a long time.
- Avoid using dental floss that is coated with PFAS chemicals. You can use natural alternatives, such as silk floss or bamboo floss.
- Avoid using sunscreen that contains PFAS chemicals. You can use mineral-based sunscreen instead, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
How to Avoid PFAS Chemicals in Your Household Products
PFAS chemicals are also found in many household products, such as carpets, furniture, clothing, cleaning products, and paints. They are used to make these products stain-resistant, water-repellent, or fire-resistant. However, they can also release PFAS chemicals into the air or dust that you breathe or touch. Here are some ways to avoid PFAS chemicals in your household products:
- Choose products that are made of natural materials, such as cotton, wool, wood, or metal. They are less likely to contain PFAS chemicals or other synthetic substances.
- Avoid products that are labeled as stain-resistant, water-repellent, or fire-resistant. They may contain PFAS chemicals that can wear off over time and contaminate your home environment.
- Use natural or homemade cleaning products instead of commercial ones. You can use vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, or essential oils to clean your home effectively and safely.
- Ventilate your home regularly and use an air purifier that can filter out PFAS chemicals. You can also use plants that can purify the air naturally, such as spider plants, snake plants, or aloe vera.
- Wash your clothes and bedding regularly and use natural or fragrance-free laundry detergents. You can also use vinegar or baking soda to remove stains or odors from your fabrics.
- Dispose of any products that contain PFAS chemicals properly and safely. Do not burn them or throw them in the trash. Contact your local waste management authority for more information on how to dispose of PFAS-containing products.
How to Monitor and Treat PFAS Exposure
- If you suspect that you have been exposed to PFAS chemicals, you may want to monitor your health and seek medical attention if needed. Here are some ways to monitor and treat PFAS exposure:
- Get tested for PFAS levels in your blood. You can ask your doctor or a certified laboratory for a blood test that can measure the levels of various PFAS chemicals in your body. However, this test may not be covered by your insurance or available in your area.
- Get screened for any health problems that may be related to PFAS exposure. You can ask your doctor for a comprehensive physical examination that can check for any signs or symptoms of PFAS-related diseases, such as cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immune system dysfunction, or reproductive harm.
- Follow your doctor’s advice and treatment plan if you have any PFAS-related health problems. You may need to take medication, undergo surgery, or receive other forms of treatment depending on your condition and severity.
- Seek legal advice if you have been harmed by PFAS exposure due to the negligence or misconduct of a company or entity that is responsible for the contamination. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, or other damages.
PFAS chemicals are a serious threat to your health and the environment. They are widely used in various products and industries, but they do not break down easily and can accumulate in your body and the environment over time. They have been linked to a range of health problems, such as cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immune system dysfunction, and reproductive harm.
However, you can take action to reduce your exposure and protect yourself and your family from PFAS chemicals. You can avoid or limit PFAS-containing products in your food, water, personal care products, and household products. You can also monitor and treat PFAS exposure by getting tested, screened, treated, or compensated if needed.
By following these tips and advice, you can minimize the risk of PFAS chemicals and improve your health and well-being.