How To Reduce PFAS Exposure

How To Reduce PFAS Exposure

PFAS are endocrine-disrupting forever chemicals that can be found in fast-food packaging, non-stick cookware, water, beauty products and more.

In recent years, scientific research has cast a spotlight on a group of chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are linked to a variety of health risks, including cancer, liver damage, and endocrine and immune system disruption. Dubbed “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and resistance to breakdown, PFAS are ubiquitous, not only appearing in industrial applications but also found in everyday consumer products.

A 2021 study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that PFAS contamination is pervasive, with measurable levels found in 97% of blood samples taken from participants across the United States. This pervasive presence is alarming, given that PFAS accumulate in the human body over time, leading to potential long-term health effects. 

The insidious spread of these chemicals through water supplies, food chains, and consumer products means that total avoidance is challenging, yet effective strategies exist to reduce exposure. For those concerned about their health and the cumulative impact of environmental toxins, the following actionable steps can provide significant protection against PFAS exposure. These measures range from selecting appropriate household items to advocating for regulatory changes, offering immediate and long-term benefits to individual and public health.

1. Choose PFAS-Free Products: Look for products that are explicitly labeled as PFAS-free. This can include cookware, cosmetics, and clothing. Brands that are committed to avoiding these chemicals will often advertise this fact.

2. Avoid Non-Stick Cookware: Opt for alternatives to non-stick pots and pans, such as stainless steel, ceramic, or cast iron, which do not require PFAS coatings.

3. Check Water Quality: Since PFAS can contaminate drinking water, it’s advisable to check the water quality reports from your local water provider. If PFAS levels are high, consider using a water filter that can reduce PFAS concentrations. Filters that use activated carbon or reverse osmosis are typically effective. Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently set first-ever limits on PFAS on drinking water.

4. Be Wary of Packaging: PFAS are often used in food packaging because of their water and grease resistance. When the packaging gets heated up, PFAS can leach into the food. Try to reduce the consumption of fast food and other foods that come in contact with potentially treated packaging materials.

5. Educate Yourself About Personal Care Products: Some personal care products might contain PFAS, particularly those that are waterproof or long-lasting. Look for ingredients such as “PTFE” or “fluoro” on labels, which indicate the presence of PFAS.

6. Engage in Advocacy: Support regulation and policies that aim to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of PFAS. Being part of community and environmental advocacy groups can amplify the push for cleaner manufacturing practices and stricter regulations.

By taking these steps, you can significantly reduce your exposure to PFAS and contribute to the broader effort to minimize their impact on health and the environment.