I’ve been talking for years about the effect of various environmental toxins on our metabolism. And now, almost every day, we read news headlines that validate what I’ve been saying about the importance of reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals.
Today, let’s focus on a biggie – perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. This chemical is used in the manufacture of non-stick pan coatings, food wrappers, personal care products, and stain-resistant coatings on carpets and other materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has become concerned about PFOA because it has been found in the blood of 90 percent of Americans, as well as throughout the environment.
PFOA is persistent in the environment, meaning it doesn’t break down with water or biodegrade in other ways, and it may not be eliminated well from the body. The health problems from PFOA include diminished thyroid function, decreased immune function, liver toxicity, and higher cholesterol levels (leading to potential weight problems and heart disease).
In cooperation with an initiative by the EPA to phase out PFOA emissions by 2015, most companies that use PFOA in their products are looking for alternatives. Just how much exposure you get directly from water and oil-repelling products is not known. In the meantime, boycotting products manufactured with PFOA may help stop environmental contamination sooner. So, here’s what you can do:
- Avoid using Teflon and other non-stick coated pans, especially over high heat and/or if the coating is chipped or flaking.
- Avoid food in packages with slippery surfaces, including fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, and bakery and candy support liners.
- Choose solid-surface materials for flooring instead of carpets treated with stain-resistant coatings.
- And when choosing personal care products (such as lotions, nail polish, makeup, and shaving cream), avoid those with ingredients that have “-fluoro” or “-perfluoro” in their names.