PFAS, diet and health: what you need to know


Developed in the 1940sper- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of over 9,000 chemicals with many industrial and cosmetic uses.

They were a breakthrough in technological advancements at the time, improve textiles by making them water and stain resistant, adding flame retardant properties and improving chemical stability for longer lasting products.

Their uses have since spread to all of the cosmetic and food industries.

PFAS are found abundantly in:

  • contaminated drinking water
  • non-stick cookware
  • food packaging material
  • water and stain resistant coatings for clothing, furniture and carpets
  • personal care products
  • cosmetic products, such as foundation
  • fire fighting foams
  • fast food, meat, fish and shellfish
  • coffee and tea to take to the United States
  • processed foods, including microwave popcorn
  • low-fiber, high-fat grain products, such as bread and pasta
  • indoor dust.

Yet PFAS are a double-edged sword – the chemical properties that make them excellent for industrial use are the same properties that threaten environmental and human health.

They have a long half-life, which makes thempersistent” chemical products. This means they don’t break down easily, so they then accumulate in the environment, including animal and human tissue.

Humans are exposed to PFAS primarily through the diet, as well as through drink waterskin contact from cosmetics and personal care products, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and Youth exposure during pregnancy or lactation.

Although some to research shows that PFAS can be found at low and potentially non-hazardous levels in the environment, their overwhelming presence in everyday products and their accumulation in the human body pose significant safety and toxicity concerns.

In fact, a 2022 review indicates that PFAS are found in the blood of almost all American adults and accumulate in the liver.

In addition to being persistent chemicals in the environment, PFAS are endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDC), which are compounds that interfere with the normal functions of hormones in the body.

Here are some of the documented health risks of PFAS.

liver damage

In the body, PFAS accumulate primarily in liver tissue, making liver damage one of the most studied health effects of PFAS.

The 2022 review mentioned above – which looked at both animal and human studies – shows that exposure to PFAS is associated with signs of liver damage and an increased risk of developing conditions such as steatosis. non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD), which in turn can lead to more serious conditions such as cirrhosis.

NAFLD is a spectrum of liver disorders and one of the leading causes of chronic liver disease and potentially liver failure.

Its exact mechanism is unclear, but some experts believe that PFAS disrupts fat processing and storage in the body, increasing fatty deposits in the liver which subsequently damage this organ and induce other metabolic disorders. .

Endocrine and metabolic disorders

As endocrine disrupting chemicals, PFAS are associated with metabolic disorders including obesity, thyroid disorders and diabetes.

A 2016 review suggests that prenatal exposure to PFAS was subsequently associated with excess adiposity and an increased risk of overweight and obesity in children.

Observational studies also support the link between PFAS and compromised thyroid health, which during pregnancy disrupts glucose and insulin levels, increasing the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels get too high during pregnancy and can be harmful to both parent and baby.

reproductive health

PFAS can disrupt reproductive health as early as puberty by potentially altering the function of the ovaries.

A 2020 review highlights research that has found associations between PFAS exposure and delayed onset of the menstrual cycle, irregular or longer cycles, early onset of menopause, and estrogen and androgen hormonal imbalances.

In addition, exposure to PFAS during pregnancy poses long-term health risks to the fetus, but can also lead to low birth weight or the life-threatening condition, preeclampsia.

However, findings regarding PFAS and reproductive health have been inconsistent, and more research in humans is warranted.

Other risks

Although there is little evidence to date, ongoing research continues to elucidate the potential role of PFAS exposure in cancer risk and development.

Researchers have previously observed associations between exposure to PFAS via drinking water and development kidney and testicular cancers.

Other to research determined that PFAS increase the risk of developing kidney cancer, so the higher the exposure to PFAS, the higher the risk of cancer, adding to the evidence that PFAS are kidney carcinogens.

Government regulations and changes in manufacturing practices aim to reduce human exposure to PFAS.

For example, the Government of Canada’s list of banned toxic substances include certain classes of PFAS, and in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed PFAS on its registry of toxic substances.

However, PFAS is a family of over 9,000 chemicals, not all of which have been clearly categorized and studied, making widespread exposure a public health concern.

Either way, you can still take some steps to reduce PFAS exposure and related health risks:

  • filter drinking water
  • read labels on PFAS chemical packages to know what to avoid
  • avoid non-stick cookware
  • choose PFAS-free food packaging – more likely with recyclable paper, glass, bamboo or stainless steel
  • choosing PFAS-free personal care and cosmetic products
  • skip makeup waterproof
  • limit or avoid highly processed foods like fast foods and fried meat or fish
  • make popcorn on the stove or air pop instead of popcorn in the microwave
  • maintain a regular cleaning schedule to prevent dust buildup inside
  • Avoid stain- and water-resistant fabric coverings.

Occupational exposures also occur, such as during fire training. Have a discussion regarding protective equipment to avoid skin contact and inhalation of PFAS-containing compounds.

PFAS are a family of over 9,000 chemicals with many industrial uses that provide water and stain resistance, adding flame retardant and chemical stability properties to textiles.

They are also found in contaminated drinking water, fast food, personal care and cosmetic products, and some nonstick cookware.

These PFAS accumulate in body tissues and are associated with impaired liver, thyroid, kidney and reproductive health, as well as an increased risk of testicular and kidney cancers.

The abundance of PFAS makes them difficult to avoid, but choosing PFAS-free food packaging, filtering drinking water, avoiding stain and water-resistant coatings and makeup, and limiting highly processed foods can reduce exposure. and long-term health risks.


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