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“Forever chemicals” have been in the media once again. In mid-June 2022, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a new set of advisories for PFAS in drinking water. They were also ready with billions in funding to address these and other “emerging contaminants,” citing significant dangers to public health. It’s true; these chemicals, which seem to take forever to break down, accumulate in the environment and in our bloodstreams. If you want to be healthy, you must eliminate or limit the traumas, toxins, and thoughts making you sick. PFAS–-forever chemicals—are one toxin contributing to chronic inflammation and dis-ease.

What Are Forever Chemicals?

PFAS stands for per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances. They were originally developed by the worldwide manufacturer 3M and were formerly called perfluorochemicals (PFCs). PFAS-containing products have been used since the 1940s. This class of chemicals has been popular among manufacturers due to their non-stick qualities and use for stain-resistant and water-resistant fabrics. They are slippery, so they work well to keep parts lubricated and moving –These chemicals are much like good old WD40. They have so many applications that they have ended up in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

This technology was designed to make manufacturing and household cleaning easier: “Better living through chemistry.” It’s yet another luxury of modern living, and it makes sense that these chemicals were so popular an ingredient. Unfortunately, they are also toxic. PFAS-treated products or water contaminated with them could be adding to the toxicity of your home and your body.

There are currently about 9,000 types of PFAS. Sadly, they are accumulating throughout the environment and the population. One CDC report found that 97% of Americans had PFAS in their bloodstreams. These toxins get into the air, water supply, and soil through pollution from manufacturing. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) put together an interactive map so you can check your exposures through drinking water, military sites, and other known contaminated sites.

But they aren’t just outside. These chemicals can enter your home through commonly used household items.

Which Products Expose You to PFAS?

PFAS were formerly used on carpeting – in the form of 3M’s Scotchgard™, for instance – but the carpeting industry moved away from it a while back. Some companies are moving away from using PFAS because of consumer reactions. But they haven’t completely disappeared, and the EPA is raising concerns. Here are some products that may still contain PFAS:

  • Firefighting foam – aqueous film-forming foams (AFFs) used to extinguish fires used in emergency response training.
  • Cleaning products
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Food packaging
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Stain-resistant upholstery and carpet treatments
  • Some cosmetics – waterproof mascara, lip gloss, and foundations with a sheen.
  • Water- or stain-resistant clothing – rain jackets and other weather-proof materials.

Limit exposure by cleaning with vinegar and essential oils, using reusable glass containers for food, and buying natural, traditional products whenever possible. When purchasing paints and varnishes, look for low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds). For commercial cleaning products, look for EPA’s Safer Choice certification.

What Are Some Negative Health Effects of PFAS?

According to the PFAS-Tox Database, hosted by the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, some of the negative health effects of exposure to PFAS were:

  • Altered metabolism and obesity
  • Increased risk of some cancers, including kidney, testicular, pancreatic, breast, and other types of cancer
  • Increased cell death (apoptosis)
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Increased risk of heart attacks,
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes
  • Increased risk of thyroid disease
  • Skin irritation
  • Decreased fertility
  • Reduced immune response
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer
  • Asthma

The financial impact of this increase in disease is profound. A recent study determined that PFAS-related diseases and conditions could undermine the U.S. economy. PFAS exposure could ultimately cost Americans anywhere from $5.5 billion to $63 billion when you extend it over the lifetime of the current population.

What Can You Do Personally to Limit Exposure?

Limiting your exposure to these forever chemicals means addressing your water sources and reducing other sources of contact through the products you buy.

If You Have City Water…

  • Check your local tap water online – Type your zip code into the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database to learn whether authorities have detected PFAS in your water and whether it exceeds EWG’s standards. (You can also learn about other contaminants, like arsenic and fluoride).
  • Call your local water utility – Find out if they have done testing and what the levels are. If they exceed the standards of your state or the EPA’s standards, contact your state EPA or health department to see what they recommend.
  • Consider getting a filter – Research the best-activated carbon, reverse osmosis, or ion exchange systems to remove PFAS from the water as it comes out of your faucet.

If You Have a Well…

  • Get your water tested regularly – That will give you overall information on the contents of your water and whether PFAS are a concern.
  • Contact your state EPA or health department –They can advise you on state-certified laboratories for testing your water. If the results are concerning, call your local EPA or water utility for recommendations.
  • Consider getting a filter – Research the best-activated carbon, reverse osmosis, or ion exchange systems to remove PFAS from the water as it comes out of your faucet.

While water is likely your primary source of exposure, it’s not the only one. Your occupation or lifestyle choices may also increase your risk of exposure.

Know That Certain Workers Are at Increased Risk

Your industry and occupation may increase your contact with PFAS. Because of their job-related chemical exposure, people in these occupations may have higher levels of PFAS in their bodies:

  • Firefighters – Bloodstream concentrations were 18% to 74% higher in firefighters than in the general population.
  • Chemical manufacturing workers – Including textile manufacturing for high-performance fabrics (water-, stain-, and oil-resistant).
  • Ski wax technicians – Study researchers commented that not only are professional ski waxers exposed. Amateur skiers and waxers should also be aware of PFAS.

If you work in one of these industries, it’s a good idea to be under the care of a doctor or health restoration coach. He or she can keep tabs on your toxicity levels and ensure you don’t have increased inflammation or other disease markers.

Be Aware of Food Sourcing

According to the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, you can also get PFAS from the foods you eat –even when eating a healthy, whole foods diet. Fish can absorb PFAS from the water around them. Meat from animals raised near manufacturing plants utilizing PFAS or waste sites may be contaminated. The same goes for fresh produce. Buy organic when possible.

Cook at Home with Traditional Pans

Fast food packaging is often coated in PFAS to keep it from absorbing grease. When you cook and eat at home, you lower your exposure. However, watch out for microwave popcorn. While we don’t recommend the microwave in general, microwave popcorn bags are also often coated with PFAS.

Be careful how you stock your kitchen. Non-stick pans and kitchen utensils also tend to be coated with PFAS or related chemicals, like PTFE. While PTFE, found in Teflon non-stick pans, has been recommended as a safer alternative, it isn’t really. Heating PTFE can cause PFAS to release into the air, which means you’re now breathing them in.

Choose pans and kitchen utensils that are stainless steel, ceramic, glass, or wooden to limit kitchen sources of PFAS.

Be Careful of Personal Care Products

Opt for natural or organic personal care products whenever possible. As mentioned, traditional cosmetics may have PFAS in their ingredients. In fact, 52% of products tested had PFAS (a 2021 study). Waterproof mascaras were the worst, at 82%. The next highest were foundations (liquid and creams) at 63% and liquid lipsticks (62%). Look for small natural brands and make sure you understand the ingredients.

Even dental floss may contain PFAS, as it helps the floss easily glide through the teeth.

PFAS and The Swiss Watch Principle

As we often mention at The Wellness Way, your body is designed much like a Swiss watch, filled with intricate gears. If one gear malfunctions, none of the others work, and the watch stops. That’s how it is with the human body. If one organ or system isn’t working, there are consequences for the body as a whole.

What throws off the “gears” of the body? Stress. Stress comes in many forms, and we categorize them as Trauma, Toxins, and Thoughts—The 3 T’s. PFAS is a toxin that may throw a wrench in the “gears” of the body. The toxicity burdens the liver and other detox pathways, increases inflammation, and triggers an immune response. Down the road, this toxin (which we know builds up in the bloodstream) may contribute to health problems.

The Wellness Way Can Help

If you’re wondering whether PFAS or other toxins are contributing to your health issues, you don’t have to guess; you can test. There is a specific test for toxic non-metal chemicals that you can do. However, if you are already experiencing a health issue, like thyroid disease or obesity, your clinic team will likely test for imbalances thyroid or gut imbalances before anything. The most important thing is to find out what is triggering inflammation for you individually. Once the inflammation is down and your immune response is balanced, your body is in a better place to heal. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic near you today to start your health journey!

References

  1. ‘Forever Chemicals’ — Linked to Billions in U.S. Health Costs — Could Undermine Economy • Children’s Health Defense (childrenshealthdefense.org)
  2. EPA Announces New Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFAS Chemicals, $1 Billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding to Strengthen Health Protections | US EPA
  3. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas
  4. Perfluorochemicals — past, present and future issues (state.mn.us)
  5. PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ are everywhere. Here’s what you should know about them : NPR
  6. PFAS | NIOSH | CDC
  7. Serum Biomarkers of Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances in Relation to Serum Testosterone and Measures of Thyroid Function among Adults and Adolescents from NHANES 2011–2012 – PMC (nih.gov)
  8. Interactive Map: PFAS Contamination Crisis: New Data Show 2,858 Sites in 50 States (ewg.org)
  9. Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS | US EPA
  10. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) frequently asked questions (cdc.gov)
  11. PFAS-Tox Database (pfastoxdatabase.org)
  12. Leveraging Systematic Reviews to Explore Disease Burden and Costs of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance Exposures in the United States | SpringerLink
  13. Reducing PFAS in Drinking Water with Treatment Technologies | US EPA
  14. PFAS chemical exposure | ATSDR (cdc.gov)
  15. EWG Tap Water Database
  16. Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Metabolic Syndrome in Firefighters: A Pilot Study – PubMed (nih.gov)
  17. Assessment of lipid, hepatic, and thyroid parameters with serum perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) concentrations in fluorochemical production workers – PubMed (nih.gov)
  18. Occupational exposure to airborne perfluorinated compounds during professional ski waxing – PubMed (nih.gov)
  19. PFAS chemical exposure | ATSDR (cdc.gov)
  20. Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging – PMC (nih.gov)
  21. The Teflon chemical PTFE is often touted as a safe cousin of toxic PFAS. But is it really? – ChemSec
  22. Fluorinated Compounds in North American Cosmetics | Environmental Science & Technology Letters (acs.org)
  23. Dental flossing and other behaviors linked with higher levels of PFAS in the body | Silent Spring Institute

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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