PFASs, which stands for perfluoroalkyl substances and includes the category of chemicals known as PFCs, are practically impossible to avoid. Textiles are saturated with the chemicals to make them stain- and moisture-resistant. Sealant tape, ski wax, and floor wax are waterpro
But prevalent though PFASs may be, experts say we should minimize our use of and exposure to these ubiquitous chemicals for two crucial reasons. “First, the structure of PFASs means they resist breakdown in the environment and in our bodies,” says Eric Olson, NRDC’s Health program director. “Second, for some PFASs, even minor levels of exposure can negatively impact our health.”of thanks to them, and in machinery they reduce gear friction. PFASs are found in our homes, our offices, our supermarkets—practically everywhere.
PFASs that enter the body through the foods we eat and products we use every day can linger there for years before they are eventually flushed out. “For years, bad-actor PFASs were used in food containers like pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, Chinese take-out containers, and other food packaging to repel grease, and they could leach into the food,” says Olson. “So NRDC and our partners petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban three of the worst PFASs from food uses. In January 2016, the FDA granted our petition and banned those three. But we’re worried that chemical cousins of those PFASs are being used. And the trouble is, manufacturers don’t have to disclose to consumers that they’re using them.”
These chemicals are not just all around us, but actually inside us, too. PFASs were detected in the breast milk, umbilical cord blood, or bloodstreams of 98 percent of participants in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The wide range of health woes associated with some PFASs in animal studies includes cancer (kidney, prostate, rectal, testicular), hormone malfunction, liver and thyroid problems, and abnormal fetal development.
While the battle to curb PFASs continues,
there are steps you can take now to safeguard yourself and your loved ones:
- Ask manufacturers whether their products contain PFASs, since they likely won’t be listed on labels.
- Don’t use nonstick cookware, Gore-Tex clothing, personal care products with “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients, or textiles made with the original (pre-2000) formulation of Scotchgard.
- If you don’t need something truly “waterproof,” look for coats, hats, boots, and tents labeled “water resistant.” They’re less likely to be treated with PFASs.
- Minimize PFAS exposure among children (who are especially susceptible to these chemicals’ dangers) by avoiding carpets and upholstery that were treated to be stain or water resistant.
- Replace nonstick cookware with stainless steel, cast-iron, glass, or ceramic alternatives.
- Avoid ordering or heating up food that is wrapped in grease-resistant paper.
- Make popcorn on the stovetop instead of in PFAS-treated microwave bags.
- Watch for PFAS updates from NRDC and the National Toxicology Program.