Many products that need separating water and oils, such as water-resistant clothes, fast-food wrappers, and carpets, include PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds). Because they don’t break down readily, they’re commonly referred to as “forever chemicals.”
PFAS are found in an astonishing number of consumer and commercial items. Water, soil, and the blood of people and animals in the farthest reaches of the globe have all been contaminated as a result of decades of extensive use. PFAS are extremely long-lasting chemicals that never break down in the environment and can stay in our bodies for years.
How are they harmful to us?
Because PFAS cannot be removed from the body, it may create health concerns if you are exposed to high quantities over an extended period of time. PFOA and PFOS, two of the most investigated compounds in this family, have been proven to:
1. PFAS has been shown to cause tumors in animals in the lab, leading researchers to assume it is a human carcinogen. It has also been linked to renal and testicular cancer in other studies.
2. Cirrhosis, liver lesions, and impairment of normal liver functions can all be caused by the chemical’s toxicity. Lethargy, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain and swelling, itchy skin, chronic fatigue, dark urine, edema in the ankles and legs, and light stool color are all signs of liver failure or injury.
3. According to a study published in a scientific journal, women with higher blood levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds) had a higher chance of developing hypertension. Exposure may be an overlooked risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease in women.
4. It compromises the immune system, putting you at risk for autoimmune diseases, blood disorders, and digestive issues.
5. High amounts of PFAS exposure can cause kidney deterioration, kidney failure, and other issues with kidney health and function. Shortness of breath that isn’t explained, swelling of the ankles, legs, and feet due to fluid retention, chest pain or pressure, chronic nausea, and seizures are all possible symptoms.
Other adverse health effects of PFAs are:
Affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
Increase cholesterol levels
Change liver function
Increase the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension/preeclampsia
Increase the risk of thyroid disease
What products contain PFAs chemicals?
PFAS are present in hundreds of products that we use on a daily basis, as well as in the environment through drinking water and certain foods. Contamination of drinking water with PFAS is becoming a growing problem due to the difficulty of removing PFAS from water treatment plants. Due of its capacity to separate both grease and water, PFAS are found in a wide range of consumer products, including:
Food packaging: takeaway containers, popcorn bags, pizza boxes, ready-made cakes, etc.
Cookware: nonstick skillet
Textiles: waterproof outdoor clothing and equipment, carpets, mattresses, etc.
Cosmetics: hair conditioner, foundation cream, sunscreen, etc.
They’re also utilized in non-consumer applications like fire-fighting foams, which are a type of foam used to put out liquid fires like a petroleum fire.
Can they be removed from water by boiling?
If you find significant amounts of PFAS in your drinking water, do not attempt to boil it and consume it. This causes the chemical to get concentrated quickly. Switch to bottled water or other FDA-approved filtering systems that use chemical-removal processes. Consider utilizing a different safe supply of water for brushing your teeth, food preparation, and other home activities that need you to consume water.
How can they be avoided?
According to the Secretary of the United States Navy, there are currently no definitive medical techniques that can remove PFAS from the body. The best course of action is to eliminate the source of the exposure from your surroundings. While PFAS cannot be eliminated from the body, the following PFAS-containing goods should be avoided:
Don’t eat microwave popcorn: Consider cutting away store-bought microwave popcorn packages from your snack rotation. The inside of the bags is frequently coated with PFAS.
Packaged goods: Particularly those with oil-repellent coatings, such as microwave popcorn bags, fast-food packaging, and fatty meal wrappers
Cosmetic Items: PFAS can be found in a wide range of personal and cosmetic items, including dental floss, cosmetics, and face and body moisturizers.
Future generations of people and wildlife are at risk
Removing PFAS from the environment is difficult, especially in the enormous ocean. This, along with PFAS’ extraordinary persistence, means that even if we stop PFAS emissions today, humans and wildlife will continue to be exposed to these chemicals through environmental channels for decades.
Currently, PFAs are regulated at the global and European levels. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international pact aimed at reducing or eliminating the production and use of the world’s most dangerous chemicals.
Several other PFAS sub-groups are also regulated at the European level through the REACH chemical legislation.
However, the PFAS family has over 4,500 compounds, and the industry continues to replace regulated PFAS with additional PFAS chemicals. As a result, despite existing legislation, the overall concentration of PFAS in the environment continues to rise. Only a total PFAS prohibition would prevent future PFAS build-up in the environment by preventing unfortunate PFAS substitution within the family.