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PFAS

PFAS

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Sources of PFAs

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a family of over 4,000 man-made chemicals made up of carbon and fluorine. Due to their resistance to grease, oil, water, and heat, PFAS have been used in thousands of industrial and consumer products since the mid-20th century. For example, PFAS can be found in non-stick cookware, cosmetics, cleaning products, textiles, food containers, and firefighting foams. PFAS can also contaminate drinking water and foods, further exposing humans and livestock. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” as they take a very long time to break down and so they persist in the environment and human body.

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The impact of PFAs on children

PFAS are universally detected among pregnant women and can cross the placenta to the developing fetus. PFAS can also be found in human breast milk and can be transferred to infants via lactation. As such, PFAS have been found to be associated with wide ranging adverse health outcomes in children, including immune and kidney dysfunction and poorer reproductive and developmental health. Higher levels of PFAS in blood have also been associated with lower antibody responses to vaccinations among children and adults. PFAS that accumulate in the lungs have been linked to more severe COVID-19 (Grandjean et al., 2020).​

Ways to reduce and avoid PFAs

  1. Make sure your water supply does not contain elevated levels of PFAS (ask for information from the water supplier).
  2. Avoid PFAS in large, carnivorous fish and food products contaminated by PFAS from fast food packaging.
  3. Vacuum frequently with a HEPA filter.
  4. Avoid products such as textiles, outdoor gear, and non-stick cookware labeled as “stain-resistant”, “non-stick”, “durable water resistant (DWR)”, or “water-resistant”. Look for PFAS-, PFC-, or fluorocarbon-free labels.
  5. Avoid cosmetics containing chemicals with “fluoro” or PTFE in their name.
vacuuming

Further reading and research articles

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous in environmental media because of their prolific use in a variety of industrial and consumer products and processes (Jian et al. 2018; Sunderland et al. 2019).
Widespread human exposure to PFAS in water, food, and air coupled with the lengthy environmental persistence and biological half-lives of some PFAS have led to measurable PFAS in the blood of nearly the entire population in developed countries, with health effects reported globally (Kato et al. 2011; Khalil et al. 2016; Stubleski et al. 2016; Jian et al. 2018).

Research articles

Like other chemicals, PFAS are potentially capable of producing a wide range of adverse health effects depending on the circumstances of exposure (magnitude, duration, and route of exposures, etc.) and factors associated with the individuals exposed (e.g., age, sex, ethnicity, health status, and genetic predisposition). Aspects to consider when establishing the health effects of greatest concern are 1) effects for which evidence is the strongest (strength of evidence can come from consistency of effect across studies, strength of effect associations in epidemiological studies, and species concordance, as examples), and 2) effects for which potential impact is greatest (factors contributing to impact can include severity of effect, functional impairment, persistence, and specific age groups that are susceptible, as examples). 

Author:

Fenton et al., 2021

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In this prospective birth cohort study from 6 cities in Canada, higher levels of fluoride exposure during pregnancy were associated with lower IQ scores in children measured at age 3 to 4 years. These findings were observed at fluoride levels typically found in white North American women. This indicates the possible need to reduce fluoride intake during pregnancy.

Author: Von Holst et al., 2021

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Developing children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of endocrine disrupting chemicals. We hypothesized that early life exposure to PFASs is associated with poor metabolic health in children.

We studied the association between prenatal and postnatal PFASs mixture exposure and cardiometabolic health in children, and the role of inflammatory proteins.

Author: Papadopoulou et al., 2021

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Very few PFAS chemicals have been studied for human health effects, although emerging evidence documents that PFOS and PFOA have been associated with some adverse health outcomes.14 Data from human studies suggest that some PFAS can take as long as 8–9 years to clear from the body.15

Early epidemiological research studies found “probable links” from exposure to PFOA to preeclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension, as well as high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, kidney

Author: Anderko et al., 2020

Read the full study…

Illustration of how Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances move through the environment. 

Illustration of how Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances move through the environment. 

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