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Chemicals known as "forever chemicals" or PFAS have been in the news a lot recently. This is because PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are in so many products that we all use, yet research is showing more and more health harms from them. Including to pregnant women and developing babies.

A recent study found that pregnant women who ate more ultra-processed  or fast foods had higher levels of a type of forever chemicals (PFAS) called phthalates in their bodies. The food wrappers and packaging of ultra-processed and fast food, and even the gloves worn by food handlers, are a source of the harmful chemicals.

The chemicals migrate from the packaging or wrapping into the food, which is then ingested by the person. They then get into the pregnant woman's bloodstream, and eventually the placenta and fetus. They are endocrine (hormone) disruptors. Studies find that pregnant women with higher levels of phthalates have an increased risk of preterm birth, babies with low birth weight, and other problems (e.g., autism spectrum disorder).

The researchers found that diets high in vegetables, fruits, yogurt, fish, and nuts during pregnancy were associated with lower phthalate levels (measured in the urine of the pregnant women). Ultra-processed foods were between 9.8 to 59.% of the pregnant women's diets, with the average being 38.6%.

Unfortunately, unprocessed and minimally processed foods are more expensive than ultra-processed foods. So it wasn't surprising that socioeconomic levels (including income levels) made a difference - the lower the household income, the greater the average ultra-processed food intake.

Bottom line: Try to eat less fast food and pre-made packaged food. Read labels and avoid foods with ingredients that are not found normally in a home kitchen, but are chemicals (e.g., soy lecithin, carrageenan, high-fructose corn syrup, colors). We can't totally avoid all PFAS, but we can lower our exposure to them.

From Medical Xpress: Study: Pregnant women should avoid ultraprocessed, fast foods

If you're pregnant, you may want to think twice before making a hamburger run or reaching for a prepackaged pastry, according to research published last month in the journal Environmental International. ...continue reading "Pregnant Women Ingest Forever Chemicals In Ultra-Processed and Fast Foods"

Waterproof jacket From Wikipedia

Finally.... the EPA is proposing that 9 PFAS chemicals called "forever chemicals" be labelled as "hazardous to human health" or "hazardous constituents". This means that the chemicals are toxic or cause cancer, genetic mutations, or malformations of an embryo (developing baby). There actually are thousands of PFAS chemicals, but the FDA is only focusing on 9 of them.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are called forever chemicals because they break down very slowly and they tend to accumulate, both in the environment and in humans. They are endocrine disruptors (disrupt hormones).

In humans and animals these harmful chemicals cause numerous health effects, including cancer, reproductive harm (e.g., poorer semen quality), birth defects, lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage.

Nonstick pan Credit: Wikipedia

Almost all of us have PFAS in our bodies (at varying levels). It's very hard to avoid them totally, but you should try to minimize exposure. Unfortunately, these chemicals are in all sorts of consumer products that we are exposed to frequently or daily. For example: non-stick cookware, firefighting foam, synthetic turf, cosmetics, and materials that protect against grease, oil, and water (e.g., stain-resistant carpeting and fabrics, food packaging, and water-repellent clothing).

What can you do? If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. (For ex., can look for physical barriers instead of a chemical coating). Don't use nonstick cookware. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

Excerpts from NPR: The EPA is proposing that 'forever chemicals' be considered hazardous substances

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that nine PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," be categorized as hazardous to human health.

The EPA signed a proposal Wednesday that would deem the chemicals "hazardous constituents" under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. ...continue reading "EPA Finally Proposing Some Forever Chemicals As Hazardous"

Do you know what chemicals you're exposed to on a daily basis? A recent study found that women with cancers of the breast, uterus, skin (melanoma), or ovaries had significantly higher levels of certain endocrine disrupting chemicals in their bodies than women without any of those cancers.

The researchers looked at levels of some hormone disrupting chemicals: PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), phenols (e.g. BPA), and parabens in both men and women. They found that women had higher levels of endocrine disruptors for 4 types of cancers (breast, uterine, ovarian, and melanoma). However, there was no relationship between the endocrine disruptors and thyroid cancer in men or women, and no relationship in men with prostate cancer.

The reason the researchers looked at breast, prostate, thyroid, ovarian, endometrial, and testicular cancers, and melanoma is because they are "hormone-mediated" cancers. That is, hormones play a role in growth and progression of these cancers.

Bottom line: You cannot totally avoid these chemicals because they are used in so many products, but you can really lower your exposure to them. Read Avoiding Harmful Chemicals for easy tips on reducing your exposure to these harmful chemicals. For example, don't use non-stick pots and pans, don't use plug-in air fresheners, and try to use fragrance-free or unscented products as much as possible. Use paraben and phthalate-free personal care products.

From Medical Xpress: Study finds significant chemical exposures in women with cancer

In a sign that exposure to certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be playing a role in cancers of the breast, ovary, skin and uterus, researchers have found that people who developed those cancers have significantly higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies. ...continue reading "Some Cancers In Women Linked to Chemical Exposures"

Male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Currently there is incredible concern over what the group of toxic chemicals called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are doing to humans. PFAS are commonly known as "forever chemicals" because of their persistence in our bodies and environment. They are all around us (e.g., in personal care products, cosmetics, food packaging, nonstick cookware, textiles, carpets), and as a consequence almost all of us have them in our bodies.

Why be concerned over PFAS chemicals? They are endocrine (hormone) disruptors and have numerous harmful health effects, including all sorts of reproductive effects (e.g., decreases in sperm numbers, increased rates of infertility), decreases in testosterone, increased risk of cancer, and immune effects. Studies also find that they cross the placenta and accumulate in the fetus.

Now another worrisome large study (864 young men, 18.9 to 21.2 years old) has been published. Danish researchers found that those men who had been exposed to higher levels of PFAS during pregnancy had lower levels of sperm (both sperm concentration and sperm count), and a higher proportion of not swimming correctly and nonmoving sperm in the adult sons. This means that prenatal exposure has an effect on both quantity and quality of sperm in adulthood.

The PFAS levels were first measured during pregnancy (in the mother's plasma) during the first trimester, when the male reproductive system is developing. Sperm counts have been dropping rapidly in the past 40 years throughout the developed world, and these chemicals may be one of the reasons.

Bottom line: We can't totally avoid these chemicals, but the good news is that we can lower by a lot how much we are exposed to. And your levels can go down within weeks.

PFAS are commonly used because they have water, dirt, stain, and oil repellent properties. For example, they are used in water-resistant and long-lasting cosmetics, and in rugs and upholstery with added stain-resistance. This means that there are many simple ways to lower your exposure, mainly by some lifestyle changes (e.g., by using regular stainless steel pots and not non-stick pots).

A good list of ways to lower your exposure to PFAS and other harmful chemicals, especially if you are pregnant or thinking of pregnancy, or have children. Can also go to ewg.org for lists of personal care products that are PFAS and toxin free.

Nice, short article from The Guardian: Study links in utero ‘forever chemical’ exposure to low sperm count and mobility

A new peer-reviewed Danish study finds that a mother’s exposure to toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” during early pregnancy can lead to lower sperm count and quality later in her child’s life.  ...continue reading "Study Finds “Forever Chemical” Exposure Early in Life Has Effects On Sperm In Adulthood"

Waterproof jacket Credit: Wikipedia

Uh-oh... A recent study found that even if a water- or stain-resistant children's product is labeled as "green" and "non-toxic", that label may be false. Silent Spring Institute researchers found that odds are good that the product contains persistent harmful PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Precisely the opposite of what the "green" or "non-toxic" label promises.

PFAS are a group of toxic chemicals used in many consumer and industrial products. They are known to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and exposure to these chemicals has been linked to health problems such as certain types of cancer, reproductive harm (e.g., poorer semen quality), and birth defects, lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage.

Almost all of us have PFAS in our bodies (at varying levels). It's very hard to avoid them totally, but you should try to minimize exposure. They are found in a variety of consumer products such as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, and materials that protect against grease, oil, and water (e.g., stain-resistant carpeting and fabrics, food packaging, and water-repellent clothing).

What can you do? If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. (For ex., can look for physical barriers instead of a chemical coating). Also, avoid products labeled with a trademark for water or stain resistance. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

From Environmental Health News: “Green” children's products not always PFAS-free, warns new study

PFAS are finding their way into “green” and “nontoxic” products, especially waterproof products marketed toward children and adolescents, according to new research.

The researchers tested 93 items marketed to or often used by children and adolescents, including clothing, face masks, mattress protectors, rugs, sheets, and upholstery. They detected fluorine, a PFAS indicator, in 54 of the 93 products. The 54 products shown to contain fluorine were then tested for specific PFAS chemicals. ...continue reading "Waterproof “Green” Children’s Products May Contain Harmful PFAS"