You may have ingested or been exposed to forever chemicals and not even know it. They are in our drinking water, household products, clothing, and food.
What are forever chemicals, and what are the risks?
Keep reading to find out more.
What Are Forever Chemicals?
PFAs or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances are toxic, even in low levels. They get the nickname 'forever' because it's hard to destroy them. The other downside is that they are everywhere, and most people have a hard time avoiding them.
PFAS are a large family of human-made chemicals that have been used in various industrial and consumer products since the 1940s. They are valued for their water and oil-resistant properties, making them useful in products like non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, water-repellent outdoor gear, food packaging, firefighting foams, and more.
The chemicals repel oil and fat and basically line the pockets of manufacturers while putting the general population at risk. Like many ‘bad for us’ chemicals, PFAs make products more desirable, aka have more profits, but hurt the people buying the products.
Some states have jumped on board and made it harder for companies to use PFAs in their packaging and products, but not enough have yet, so consumers must be aware of their risks and how to protect themselves.
Why Are Forever Chemicals Bad?
So what makes PFAs so bad?
There are three main reasons.
- They don't break down. This includes in the environment and our bodies.
- They move fast, so even experts can't eliminate them or slow them down.
- They can negatively affect your health.
Where Do You Find Forever Chemicals?
You can find forever chemicals in almost every area of your life, especially your drinking water. An EWG study shows that PFAs pollute the water in 2,858 locations in 50 states as of 2022, and the numbers keep growing.
You can also find PFAs in:
- Teflon pans
- Cosmetics and skincare
- Stain-resistant furniture or carpeting
- Commercial wrappers and boxes
What Do PFAs Do?
Since PFAS or forever chemicals never break down, they accumulate in the soil, water, and our bodies. High levels of PFAs can cause health issues, including:
- Certain types of cancer
- Compromised immunity
- High cholesterol
- Weight gain
- Fetus complications
Like any risk, each person has a different tolerance level. The average American is exposed to PFAs, but not at extreme levels unless you're near a severely contaminated site.
However, people with low tolerance levels or other underlying issues may even be affected at low rates.
What You Can Do
To protect yourself, researching is important.
Before purchasing clothing, you can consult PFAS Central to find PFA-free products and retailers.
To ensure your water is safe, consider using reverse osmosis filters installed on a faucet, as they were determined to be the most effective. You can also contact the entity that supplies your water to find out what they do about preventing PFAs.
In the kitchen, avoid Teflon or non-stick pans, and avoid special packaging including grease-resistant packaging because it contains PFAs.
Finally, in the home, understand that furniture and carpeting marketed to be stain-resistant means they use these chemicals. Balance your purchases so that you have mixed materials in the home, and chemical residues on older pieces slowly dissipate over time so they may contain less of the stuff you don’t want.
You don't need to throw everything out of your house and stop drinking water now that you know about forever chemicals, but you should be selective about what you put into your body and the type of clothing and furniture you purchase.
Read labels and do your research before shopping. Determine which companies take eliminating PFAs from their products seriously and vote for them with your dollars versus supporting companies that continue using them to take advantage of consumers.