The chemical manufacturing industry supports a quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and it touches nearly all production of manufactured goods.
That means we come into contact with manufactured chemicals every day, and they can have unseen effects on the environment and our health.
PFAS, for example, appear in a variety of common household products. Keep reading to learn more about PFAS health effects and how you can limit your exposure.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS are manufactured chemicals that have been used to make products across a number of industries, including construction, electronics, and household manufacturing.
You can find PFAS in items as common as your favorite non-stick cookware, your clothing, your carpets, and even the foam firefighters use to douse a blazing fire.
These molecules consist of chains of carbon and fluorine atoms. The bond between these two elements is strong, meaning that these chemicals do not degrade on their own.
How Are We Exposed to PFAS Chemicals?
We face PFAS exposure every day. These chemicals have been around for so long that they’re now an intrinsic part of our air, our water, and the soil beneath our feet. We may accidentally ingest it or encounter PFAS chemicals in the products we use.
They’re most commonly found in the following products:
- Food packaging, like grease-resistant paper, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers
- Non-stick cookware
- Stain or water-resistant carpets and fabrics
- Personal care products, like shampoo, dental floss, nail polish, and makeup
- Paint, varnish, and sealant
Because they’re so pervasive, it can be difficult to limit PFAS exposure.
PFAS Health Effects
Scientists have found the presence of PFAS in the blood and urine samples of a large percentage of people, so it’s important to understand the effects these chemicals could have on our bodies and our health.
The extent and likelihood of PFAS health effects are still being studied, but they rely on one thing in particular: how much you’ve absorbed or ingested, and how long your exposure was.
Some studies have shown that extended exposure to PFAS can cause developmental problems in infants, interfere with the body’s hormones, increase cholesterol levels, and affect the immune system. They’ve also been shown to damage the liver, thyroid, and pancreas as well as increase the chances of asthma, and affect fertility.
There have even been links between PFAS and cancer. In fact, in San Jose, FIREFIGHTERS SUE FOR CANCER-CAUSING PFAS in their foam and fireproof apparel.
The More You Know, the Better Your Health
Now that you know about PFAS health effects, you can take the steps necessary to limit exposure to them where possible. This can involve finding safe sources of water and being more aware of what’s used in the products you buy and use every day.
If you found this article helpful, make sure to check out some of our other Health blog posts!