Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been widely used in many industrial and consumer applications for several decades. PFAS are persistent in the environment and can accumulate in the human body over time. Recent research has linked exposure to these forever chemicals with several adverse health effects. This blog post will explore what PFAS does to your body.
Let's cover what these forever chemicals do to your body.
Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS can affect the immune system. In particular, PFAS can decrease antibody production, essential for fighting off infections. This effect has been observed in both animals and humans. One study found that children exposed to higher levels of forever chemicals had weaker immune responses to vaccines. Another study showed that exposure to PFAS was associated with increased susceptibility to respiratory infections in adults.
The liver plays a critical role in filtering out toxins from the body. PFAS can accumulate in the liver, leading to liver damage and dysfunction. Animal studies have shown that exposure to PFAS can cause liver tumors, liver inflammation, and abnormal liver function. Human studies have also linked PFAS exposure to liver damage, including elevated liver enzymes, a sign of liver injury.
The endocrine system is responsible for regulating hormones in the body. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to changes in hormone levels, particularly in the thyroid gland. Studies have shown that PFAS can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, leading to various health problems, such as weight gain, fatigue, and depression. PFAS exposure has also been linked to decreased fertility and changes in sex hormone levels.
Studies have suggested that exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances may increase the risk of certain types of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a type of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
The research on PFAS and cancer is ongoing, but some studies have suggested that PFAS exposure may increase the risk of kidney and testicular cancer. For example, a study of workers at a PFAS production facility found an increased incidence of kidney cancer among those with the highest exposure to PFOA. Another study of residents living near a PFAS production plant found an increased incidence of testicular cancer in men with higher levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances in their blood.
Other types of cancer that have been linked to PFAS exposure include:
A study of residents living near a PFAS production plant found an increased incidence of bladder cancer in those with higher levels of PFAS in their blood.
Some studies have suggested that PFAS exposure may increase the risk of prostate cancer, although the evidence is inconclusive.
The evidence linking PFAS exposure to breast cancer is less clear, but some studies have suggested a possible link.
In response to growing concerns about the risks of PFAS exposure, governments worldwide have begun introducing new regulations to limit the use and release of these chemicals into the environment.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken several steps to address PFAS. In 2019, the EPA released an action plan that outlined several initiatives to address PFAS contamination in drinking water, including setting a health advisory level for PFAS in drinking water and requiring PFAS monitoring for public water systems. The EPA has also added PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory, which requires companies to report on their releases of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances into the environment. In addition, the EPA has proposed adding PFAS to the list of hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which would give the agency more tools to address PFAS contamination.
Several states in the US have also taken action to regulate forever chemicals. For example, California has established a drinking water standard for PFAS. Several other states have proposed or implemented regulations to limit PFAS in drinking water, food packaging, and other products.
In Europe, the European Union (EU) has taken a more comprehensive approach to regulating PFAS. In 2020, the EU introduced a regulatory framework for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, which includes restrictions on the use of these chemicals in several consumer products, such as textiles, firefighting foam, and food packaging. The EU also established a limit for PFAS in drinking water and requires member states to monitor PFAS in the environment.
Other countries around the world are also taking action to regulate PFAS. Canada has proposed restrictions on using forever chemicals in certain products, and Australia has established a voluntary phase-out program for PFAS-containing firefighting foam.
Here are some examples of products that may contain PFAS:
PFAS are commonly used in non-stick coatings such as Teflon. While these coatings make it easy to cook and clean, they can release toxic fumes when overheated, harming human health.
PFAS are often used in stain-resistant fabrics, including carpets, furniture, and clothing. When washed or disposed of, these products can release PFAS into the air and water, leading to environmental contamination.
PFAS are commonly used in food packaging materials, such as fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, and pizza boxes. When these products are heated, PFAS can leach into the food, which humans can ingest.
PFAS are used in firefighting foam to extinguish fuel fires, such as those caused by airplane crashes or oil spills. However, using PFAS-containing foam has led to widespread contamination of groundwater and drinking water sources near military bases and airports.
Some cosmetics, such as waterproof mascara and long-lasting lipstick, may contain PFAS. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and potentially cause health problems over time.
Dental floss: Some dental floss products may contain PFAS to make them glide more easily between teeth. However, this can result in the ingestion of small amounts of PFAS.
In conclusion, PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that can have various adverse health effects on the human body. Exposure to these forever chemicals can affect the immune, liver, and endocrine systems and may increase the risk of cancer. While some PFAS have been phased out of production, they are still in the environment and can accumulate in the human body. Reducing exposure to chemicals is essential to protect public health. Individuals can take steps to limit their exposure, such as avoiding products containing forever chemicals and using water filters that can remove PFAS from drinking water.