If you’ve heard the term “forever chemicals,” you may be wondering just what it means. It refers to a group of thousands of man-made chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These chemicals were developed in the 1940s to make products that were resistant to water, oil, heat, or staining. 

The reason they are called forever chemicals is because they do not break down. These products end up in our landfills and pollute our air, water, soil, food, and, of course, our bodies.

In June of 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first warning about the safety of our drinking water due to the presence of these forever chemicals. Unfortunately, they aren’t just in the water; they’re all around us. 

Where are PFAS found?

Forever chemicals are found in many products that we use regularly, such as:

  • Fast-food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags.
  • Non-stick cookware.
  • Water-resistant items such as raincoats or camping gear. 
  • Personal care items, including cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and soaps.
  • Cleaning supplies such as dish and laundry detergents.
  • Stain-resistant products such as rugs and furniture.

The risks of forever chemicals

Despite some research, we do not yet have a full understanding of how these chemicals impact us, or the amount of chemicals needed to trigger harmful effects. The EPA and other researchers are studying these products to learn more about their dangers and the threat they pose to our health.  

While more information is needed, the EPA reports that exposure to PFAS can have widespread effects on our bodies, including:

  • Decreased fertility.
  • Developmental delays and other impacts in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
  • Increased risk of certain cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular.
  • Changes to liver function.
  • A weakened immune system, affecting our ability to fight infection, and causing a decreased response to vaccines.
  • Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
  • Increased cholesterol levels.
  • High blood pressure.

PFAS and our food

The United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2019, the FDA began studying and testing a variety of both fresh and processed foods to determine which foods contain PFAS. 

What the FDA found is that about 97 percent of the foods they tested are free from PFAS. However, the FDA found that seafood is at a higher risk of being contaminated with PFAS, especially in freshwater fish. Be sure to check the source of your fish and whether there are any fish or shellfish advisories in that area

Tips to reduce your exposure to PFAS

While experts continue to study PFAS and their potential effects, there are things you can do to reduce your exposure to these forever chemicals. 

  • Choose fresh foods as opposed to prepackaged and skip the microwave popcorn.
  • Avoid fast foods or reduce your intake as the wrappers from your burger and the pizza box that absorbs the grease all contain PFAS.
  • Store leftovers in glass containers rather than plastic.
  • Don’t use nonstick cookware; instead use pans made from cast iron, stainless steel, copper, or aluminum.
  • Check the source of your fish and eat a variety of seafoods.
  • Use a water filter or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid products labeled as “waterproof” and “stainproof” such as carpets and furniture, as these use PFAS. 

You can get more tips in this article. Be sure to follow the Lifespan Living health and wellness blog for more tips to help keep you and your family safe and well. 

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.