Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of five thousand man-made chemicals used everywhere, from clothing, upholstery, non-stick cookware (like your Teflon pan), cosmetics, and cleaning products. They are nearly impossible to break down, giving them their more popular name: forever chemicals.
Forever chemicals are everywhere; they are released into the air, water, and soil and can build up in the environment and food products. They are so widespread that they have been found in the blood of nearly all Americans and animals.
Are PFAS harmful, though? Well, looking at the effects of PFAS is like looking at potential side effects at the bottom of a drug commercial: PFAS have been linked to cancer, liver damage, increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease, increased cholesterol, and decreased fertility. Not only that, but PFAS have been shown to pass from mother to child, increasing the likelihood of low birth weight, birth defects, delayed development, decreased response to childhood vaccinations, and newborn death. In short, forever chemicals are incredibly harmful to the human body.
But is there anything we can do? The first step in our fight against forever chemicals is regulating and banning PFAS. Even if we manage to completely ban PFAS, however, forever chemicals last… forever. This means that, as individuals, we need to limit our exposure to PFAS to avoid some of its harmful effects. You can do this by inspecting your drinking water, installing filters in your homes, and avoiding products that contain PFAS. No matter what you as an individual do, however, we must ban PFAS.