Forever chemicals. It’s a hot topic lately so in this article, we’re exploring the question of exactly what are the forever chemicals and more importantly, how can we avoid them?
Basically, the forever chemicals are a growing environmental concern and have been linked to numerous health risks.
They can be found in everyday items, but many people don’t realize the potential dangers associated with them.
As consumers become more aware of these toxic compounds, it’s important to understand what they are, how we can avoid them, their impact on our environment, and regulations that exist regarding their use.
In this blog post we’ll explore all aspects of the forever chemicals so you’re equipped with knowledge about this increasingly serious issue.
Table of Contents
What are Forever Chemicals?
Forever chemicals, also known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), are a group of man-made compounds that have been used in industrial and consumer products since the 1940’s.
They are resistant to heat, water, oil, grease, and stains. And they don’t break down easily in the environment and can accumulate in human tissue over time.
PFAS are synthetic organic chemicals composed of carbon atoms bonded to fluorine atoms.
They have been used for decades in many everyday items such as…
- nonstick cookware
- food packaging materials like microwave popcorn bags or pizza boxes
- stain repellents on furniture or carpets
- firefighting foam at airports and military bases
- waterproof clothing fabrics like Gore-Tex®
- cosmetics containing parabens or phthalates
And even some drinking water supplies! These compounds can be found all around us – in our homes, workplaces, schools, and even inside our bodies.
The most common sources of PFAS exposure include drinking contaminated water from private wells near industrial sites where these chemicals were produced or disposed of improperly as well as…
- eating foods packaged with materials containing PFAS
- using consumer products that contain them (such as nonstick cookware)
- living near hazardous waste sites where these chemicals may have been released into the environment
- working at facilities that manufacture them or use them regularly (such as firefighting foam manufacturers)
- participating in activities such as camping or hunting near areas contaminated by runoff from these facilities
- breathing air polluted by emissions from manufacturing plants producing PFAS
- consuming fish caught downstream from factories releasing wastewater containing these compounds into rivers and lakes
Exposure to high levels of certain types of PFAS has been linked to an increased risk for…
- thyroid disease
- weakened immune systems
- hormone disruption
- developmental delays
- low birth weight babies
- liver damage
- kidney damage
The bottom line is that PFAS are bad guys and that these are chemicals we definitely do not want around forever.
Main Takeaway: PFAS are synthetic organic chemicals used in many everyday items, but long-term exposure can cause serious health risks such as cancer, thyroid disease, weakened immune systems, and infertility.
How to Avoid Forever Chemicals
Now that we’re aware of the potential health risks associated with exposure to these forever chemicals, it’s important to know that these synthetic compounds are found in a wide range of consumer products and can accumulate in the environment and our bodies over time.
Here are some tips on how to avoid them:
Identifying Products Containing PFAS
Many everyday items contain PFAS, including nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, dental floss, and cosmetics.
Check product labels for ingredients like polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
Choosing Alternative Products
To avoid using products that contain PFAS, choose alternatives such as ceramic or glass cookware instead of non-stick pans.
Opt for natural fibers like cotton rather than synthetic materials and switch from disposable plates and utensils to reusable dishes.
Look for “green” cleaning supplies without added fragrances or dyes and use a water filter at home if your tap water contains high levels of PFOA/PFOS.
At work, ask your employer about any policies they have regarding the use of these chemicals.
Eating Organic Foods and Drinking Filtered Water
Eating organic foods and drinking filtered water are effective ways to reduce exposure to PFAS.
Pesticides containing these chemicals may have been used during production, so choosing organic products helps minimize your risk.
This recent study out of Colorado found that a single serving of freshwater fish can deliver as much PFAS “forever chemicals” as drinking a month’s worth of water tainted with the toxins.
For your drinking water, investing in a quality filtration system will help ensure you’re getting clean water free from harmful toxins like forever chemicals if present in local sources.
The Impact of Forever Chemicals on the Environment
Forever chemicals haven’t just been linked to serious health risks. They also do environmental damage.
Here are the ways forever chemicals impact the environment.
Pollution of Air, Soil, and Waterways
Forever chemicals can enter the environment through air emissions from industrial facilities or wastewater discharge from manufacturing sites.
These pollutants can accumulate in soil and water sources over time, contaminating drinking water supplies for communities located near these sites.
In addition, when PFAS break down they form other toxic compounds that can be released into the atmosphere via evaporation or combustion processes such as burning trash or coal-fired power plants.
Disruption of Natural Ecosystems and Wildlife Habitats
The presence of PFAS in waterways has caused significant disruption to aquatic ecosystems due to their ability to bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms at higher levels than what is found naturally in the environment.
This has resulted in decreased biodiversity among species living near contaminated areas as well as increased mortality rates among certain species exposed to high concentrations of these pollutants.
Wildlife habitats have been affected by contamination from runoff containing PFAS which can leach into groundwater systems or evaporate into nearby air sources leading to further degradation of the ecosystem.
Potential for Long-Term Damage to Human Health and the Environment
Studies have shown that exposure to even low levels of PFAS may cause long-term health effects including cancer, reproductive issues, endocrine disruption, immune system suppression, thyroid dysfunction, obesity and more depending on an individual’s level of exposure over time.
Plus, these contaminants could remain present within our environment for decades due their resistance against the natural breakdown processes. This makes them difficult, if not impossible, to remove completely.
Overall, it’s clear that forever chemicals pose a major threat to both human health and our ecosystems.
Main Takeaway: Forever chemicals are a major threat to human health and the environment, causing pollution of air, soil, and waterways as well as disruption of natural ecosystems.
Regulations and Policies Regarding Forever Chemicals
There are organizations working on the issue and they’re making good progress.
International Laws and Treaties on PFAS Use and Disposal Practices
International laws have been established to regulate the use of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in order to protect human health and the environment.
The Stockholm Convention is an international treaty that bans or severely restricts the production, use, and disposal of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including some types of PFAS.
This treaty has been ratified by 180 countries, making it one of the most widely accepted environmental treaties in history.
National Regulations on PFASs Production, Use, and Disposal Practices
In addition to international regulations, many countries have their own national policies for regulating PFAS production, use, and disposal practices.
For example, in the United States there are several federal laws that address specific aspects of PFAS management such as drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
These laws provide guidance on how companies should handle chemicals containing PFAS during manufacturing processes as well as how they should dispose of them.
Main Takeaway: International and national regulations have been established to protect human health and the environment from PFAS. These laws provide guidance on production, use, and disposal practices for companies handling chemicals containing PFAS.
Taking Action Against Forever Chemicals
Taking action against forever chemicals is an important step in protecting our health and environment.
You can get as involved as you want to in a couple of ways.
Supporting Organizations Working to Reduce PFAS Exposure:
There are many organizations dedicated to reducing exposure to PFAS through research, advocacy, education campaigns, policy initiatives, legal action and more.
By supporting these organizations financially or volunteering your time you can help make a difference in the fight against PFAS contamination. Check out The Environmental Working Group (EWG), Toxic Free Future (TFF), and Clean Water Action (CWA).
Participating in Local Efforts to Ban or Restrict PFAS Use
Many local governments across the country have taken steps towards banning or restricting the use of certain types of PFAS within their jurisdictions.
Participating in public hearings on proposed bans/restrictions is one way you can get involved at a grassroots level.
Additionally, some states have passed legislation requiring companies that manufacture consumer products containing certain levels of PFOA/PFOS compounds to label them accordingly so consumers know what they’re buying before it ends up in their homes.
Educating yourself about the dangers associated with exposure to these toxic chemicals is key when it comes to taking action against them.
However, educating others about this issue is equally important if we want real change. That’s what I’ve committed to do.
You can start by sharing this article with friends and family members who may be unaware of how dangerous these toxins really are – knowledge truly is power.
Main Takeaway: We can take action against forever chemicals by supporting organizations, participating in local efforts to ban or restrict their use, and educating ourselves and others about the dangers associated with exposure.
What Are the Forever Chemicals FAQs
What chemicals are forever chemicals?
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), are a group of man-made compounds that do not break down in the environment. They have been used for decades in products such as nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food packaging, firefighting foam and more. These chemicals can be found in soil, water and even human blood due to their long-term persistence in the environment. Health risks associated with exposure to these chemicals include cancer, hormone disruption and immune system damage.
What are the most common forever chemicals?
The most common forever chemicals are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These compounds have been used in a variety of consumer products, including nonstick cookware, food packaging, and stain-resistant fabrics.
What products contain PFAS chemicals?
PFAS chemicals are commonly found in many everyday products, including microwave popcorn bags, cookware, food packaging, stain resistant carpets and clothing, some cosmetics, outdoor gear, dental floss, personal care items such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap, and products containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or ”perfluoro”. PFAS can also be found in Teflon® cookware and other products.
How can you avoid forever chemicals?
To avoid exposure to forever chemicals, the most effective strategy is to reduce the number of sources in your environment. Here are some steps you can take:
• Eat at home more often and limit takeaway foods.
• When eating out, bring your own metal or glass container to take home leftovers.
• Avoid using non-stick cookware and opt for safer substitutes instead.
• Check for PFAS- or PFC-free labels on textiles.
• Research local fish to find out if they are contaminated with PFAS.
• Educate yourself about safer substitutes to PFAS and support policies that promote their use.
To Wrap Up
It’s time to take control of our health and make sure we are doing everything in our power to protect ourselves from the dangers of forever chemicals.
Get informed about what these toxins can do, learn how they enter our bodies, and find ways to reduce or eliminate their presence in our environment.
Then we can develop effective strategies for avoiding exposure and protecting ourselves from harm.
After all, that’s what the Wellness Watchdog is – a community dedicated to wellness! Keep coming back to get educated and stay safe and healthy out there!