What is PFAS?
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other similar chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the world since the 1940s.
These chemicals are resistant to water, grease, and stains, which is why they are often used in products like nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and food packaging. They can also be found in firefighting foams, carpeting, upholstery, and some cosmetics.
How are people exposed to PFAS?
People can be exposed to PFAS through food, water, and air. Food contamination is the most common way that people are exposed to these chemicals. Studies have found PFAS in the meat, dairy, and fish of animals that have been raised near factories that use or produce these chemicals.
Some countries have also found PFAS in drinking water supplies. This can happen when these chemicals enter the environment and contaminate groundwater or when treated sewage effluent containing PFAS is released into surface waters.
Finally, people can be exposed to PFAS through air emissions from factories that use or produce these chemicals.
What are the health effects of PFAS?
The most well-known health effect of PFAS exposure is liver damage. PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS, have been shown to cause liver damage in animals. Studies in humans have also found an increased risk of liver damage in people who have been exposed to high levels of these chemicals.
Other potential health effects of PFAS exposure include:
- Reproductive and developmental toxicity
- Thyroid hormone disruption
- Immune system suppression
- High cholesterol levels
- Decreased vaccine efficacy
PFAS are considered to be ’emerging contaminants’ because we are only just beginning to understand the potential health effects of exposure to these chemicals. More research is needed to better understand the health risks associated with PFAS exposure.
Are there any regulations on PFAS?
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a drinking water advisory level for PFOA and PFOS of 70 parts per trillion. This means that water utilities must take steps to ensure that levels of these chemicals in drinking water do not exceed this level.
The EPA has also issued a ‘national management plan’ for PFAS, which includes a voluntary phase-out of the production and use of PFOA and PFOS by 2030. However, there are no regulations specifically addressing PFAS at the federal level in the United States.
At the state level, a few states have enacted regulations on PFAS. For example, Minnesota has set drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, and Washington state has banned the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
However, much more needs to be done to regulate these chemicals and protect people from exposure.
What can you do to reduce your exposure to PFAS?
There are a few simple steps that you can take to reduce your exposure to PFAS:
- Filter your tap water using a pitcher filter or faucet-mounted filter that is certified to remove PFOA and PFOS.
- Avoid using nonstick cookware and other products that contain PFAS.
- Choose food packaging that does not contain PFAS.
- Wash your hands after using products that may contain PFAS, such as cosmetics or carpeting.
- Avoid using firefighting foam containing PFAS.
By taking these simple steps, you can reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals.
Are PFAS dangerous to humans?
Yes, PFAS are dangerous to humans. Studies have linked PFAS exposure to a variety of health problems in humans, including liver damage, thyroid problems, hormonal disruptions, cancer, and higher cholesterol levels.
If you are concerned about your exposure to PFAS, you should talk to your doctor. You can also ask your local water utility about the level of PFAS in your drinking water. Finally, you can avoid products that contain or may contain PFAS.
In conclusion, yes, PFAS are dangerous to humans and the environment. However, there are ways to avoid these chemicals and minimize your exposure to them.