What are PFAS and Why Should I Care?

I am a self-proclaimed junkie for documentaries. All types…natural wonders, how-to-science, natural disasters, travelling the globe, crime stories and also health discoveries. My Netflix queue is long and varied.

My husband came across one the other night that struck us both with wonder. It is called The Devil We Know – an eco documentary about decades of cover-ups from DuPont about the possible harmful effects of the chemicals used to make Teflon. Now, I had always heard little whispers that teflon wasn’t safe – but was always reassured that as long as it didn’t flake or scratch or get too hot, it was OK to use. I figured, if it was really a serious issue, it would not be sold anymore!

(Boy, was I wrong. But, that is my opinion. I always encourage EVERYONE to do their own research.)

WHAT are they? PFAS stands for Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl substances which are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. They are used in manufacturing all kinds of products all over the world. The most popular chemicals in this group are PFOA and PFOS. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is also evidence that these chemicals can cause health related issues.

WHERE are PFAS found? Sadly, they are in commercially made household products like Teflon pots and pans, paints, stainguards, adhesives and even fire fighting foams. They are found in certain floss, waxes, food and food wrappers, sunscreens, makeup, clothing and carpeting. They are in the water systems, soils, food and animals we eat. There is basically no escaping these chemicals.

WHY does this matter? Because PFAS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects – tumors, high cholesterol, hormone disruptions, thyroid problems, birth defects, cancer and immune system issues like poor responses to vaccines. Hmm.

We do not have enough information to answer all the questions, but the evidence is there to directly show that something about PFAS is NO GOOD. There are so many different variables in the study of all the types of PFAS and yet we still don’t know —–

  • how do they affect plant and animal life?
  • how toxic are they?
  • what is a safe amount of toxicity (is there any?)?
  • how long does it take for them to break down in the environment
  • how can we clean it up?

The first thing my husband and I did after watching this was declare to get rid of all of our Teflon plans. Oh well…..Marie Kondo would be happy. But, upon further research, it now seems like we will be doing our best to also steer clear of:

  • food packaging w/grease repellent material like french fry boxes or pizza boxes, quick packaged foods or microwave popcorn (we are better off without this stuff anyway)
  • stain-resistant clothing and outdoor/sports gear (wahhhhhh)
  • nail polish, eye shadow or any personal care items that contain the ingredients “fluoro” or ”perfluoro” (I’m done!)

“The main routes of PFAS exposure are through drinking water, food and consumer products. EWG researchers estimate more than 110 million Americans could have tap water contaminated with this family of chemicals, and the number of communities with PFAS-laced water continues to mount.” 

Look, these chemicals have been around since before I was born. They are in my blood and my childrens. They may not be used as much anymore these days, but they are still out there in our environment and also overseas. I don’t expect everyone to change overnight, but if we all arm ourselves with the knowledge that these chemicals are harmful to our bodies and our future, maybe we will think twice about what we purchase and put on our bodies and in our bodies. Priorities.



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