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Water Contaminated by Toxic, “Forever Chemicals” – Reduce Your Exposure to PFAS

A recent study from the EWG found that toxic PFAS, “forever chemicals,” were found in 43 out of 44 testing locations and most locations had higher levels than previously thought. (1) The study suggests the likelihood of concerning levels of toxic PFAS in your drinking water is very strong, especially if your water comes from a surface level source. How much toxic, “forever chemicals” is too much? It’s time to reduce our exposure to PFAS.

41 of the 44 locations tested above the recommended 1 part per trillion limit advised by EWG to avoid levels that independent studies have shown to be dangerous to human health. Brunswick County, N.C. had a level of 185.9 and Quad Cities, Iowa had a level of 109.8 parts per trillion which is much higher than the EWG recommendation and even the EPA recommended limit of 70 parts per trillion. The study also revealed numerous locations that hadn’t had levels of PFAS previously reported. You can learn more on the EWG report at their website [1].

Only three of the sites tested of the 44 locations had levels below 1 part per trillion limit that is advised by EWG to avoid levels that studies have shown are dangerous to human health. Seattle, Washington had tested at .7 parts per trillion and Tuscaloosa Alabama tested at .5 parts per trillion. The only site tested that did not have any detection of PFAS was Meridian, MS which uses well water from 700 ft below the surface.

What are PFAS or Toxic, Forever Chemicals?

PFAS are a family of thousands of perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These substances share “signature elemental bonds of fluorine and carbon, which are extremely strong and what make it so difficult for these chemicals to disintegrate in the environment or in our bodies.” That means, they are very persistent and hard to shake once they are introduced into our environment. Scientists can’t even estimate a half-life for these durable substances.

They are also known for repelling water and oil which makes them very useful for certain products and industries. Unfortunately, too useful. They have been commonly used for cookware, water repellant clothing, food wrappers, stain-resistant carpeting, furniture, and in firefighting foam.

These persistent chemicals end up in our water used by each and every one of us. It also ends up in our soil, air, in the food we eat and accumulating in our bodies. One report found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans. (2) The effects of these substances are adding up. PFAS have been linked to developmental problems, infertility, cancer, obesity, metabolic problems, hormone disruption and causing immune issues.

The EWG tested for 30 of these substances but there are thousands of substances from the family of PFAS. While studies have been done on the harm of some PFAS, the accumulated effects of numerous PFAS is still unknown.

What Can I Do to Avoid PFAS?

PFAS are persistent, don’t break down and are used in many common products, which means they are also in our water supply. This can all sound very overwhelming but there are things you can do to reduce your exposure to these toxic “forever chemicals.” Considering the potential health impacts, it is worth your effort to protect your and your family’s health.

6 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to PFAS

1 – Invest in a Quality Water Filter – Invest in a water filter that has been tested and proven to remove small particles. In addition to PFAS, there are numerous chemicals your water that you don’t want including medications, fluoride [2] and microplastics [3]. We recommend a Berkey for a countertop option or make the investment to a whole house system.

2 – Upgrade Your Cookware – Something you use every day could be leaching toxic chemicals into your food. Are you still using nonstick cookware that has been scratched up? If you are, then it is time for a cookware upgrade. Don’t replace it with more nonstick cookware. Check out our healthier cookware choices [4].

3 – You Don’t Need Stain Resistant – Skip the optional stain resistant treatment on furniture and carpets. Also, avoid it on your clothing. Find natural ways to remove stain from clothing and household items instead.

4 – Cook at Home – When you eat out or are always grabbing fast food, you are exposed to lots of chemicals like phthalates [5] and PFAS. The food wrappers and cooking materials of these convenience foods are filled with these chemicals. Cooking fresh organic foods at home is also more nutritious, so find ways to make home cooked meals easier.

5 – Choose Your Personal Care Products Wisely – Your shampoo [6], foundation [7], and sunscreen [8] can include PFAS. Since there are so many chemicals in personal care products and labeling can be misleading it can be frustrating to the average consumer. Replace products you aren’t sure of with ones from reputable companies.

6 – Advocate – Urge regulators and legislators to protect your community from the dangers of PFAS by setting water quality limits, reducing the use of PFAS and limiting the discharge of PFAS in our waterways. Once they are in our environment, they are more difficult to remove.

How Much Toxic, “Forever Chemicals” is Too Much?

How Much Toxic, “Forever Chemicals” is Too Much? The answer is any amount. We need to reduce our exposure to PFAS. We still don’t know the accumulative effects of these toxic chemicals that are persistent in our environment and bioaccumulate. This study proves we underestimated the persistence of these chemicals. Our waterways are already contaminated, so now we need to stop the further contamination and keep learning about the health effects.

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn

Resources for Exposure to PFAS:

  1. https://www.ewg.org/research/national-pfas-testing/ [1]
  2. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc/index.cfm#footnote3 [9]