PFAS chemicals are used to manufacture fluoropolymer coatings and products that repel water, heat, grease, oil, and stains, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
There are thousands of different chemicals that fall under the category of PFAS, though two of the most common and widely researched are PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid).
PFOA and PFOS have been discontinued in the United States, but can still be found in certain imported materials.
They can also be found in the environment because one of the main characteristics of PFAS is that they are virtually indestructible.
That’s why they’re known as “forever chemicals.”
Because they don’t break down or decompose over time, they can contaminate drinking water and soil, leading to animal and human exposure.
PFAS chemicals are commonly used to manufacture nonstick cookware. The original substance that was used to make Teflon is no longer on the market in the United States due to safety concerns, but present-day Teflon is made with other PFAS that may be just as hazardous to human health.
Fast food wrappers, the oil and grease resistant paper found in pizza boxes, and food product packaging are all commonly made with PFAS chemicals.
PFAS chemicals are also used to make stain-resistant fabrics, furniture, and carpet, such as carpet that has been treated with Scotchgard.
Water-repellent clothing, such as everyday rain jackets, is frequently made with PFAS chemicals.
Many cosmetics, including lipsticks, waterproof mascara, foundation, nail polish, eyeliner, and other makeup products, may include PFAS that may end up getting absorbed directly through the skin. Hygiene products, including shampoo and cleansers, can also contain PFAS chemicals.
Firefighting gear, which is designed to repel water, heat, and oil, typically contains PFAS chemicals. Firefighting foam, which has been used for decades by firefighters, also contains PFAS. Firefighting foam was regularly used by U.S. military firefighters, who began using the foam to put out fires in the 1960s, as well as firefighters at airports, where using firefighting foam was required up until 2018. While firefighting foam has been very effective in controlling fires, it has also been a source of pollution, as it releases PFAS into the environment.
PFAS may also contribute to other severe health conditions, including thyroid disease, liver problems, cardiovascular disease, reproductive issues such as reduced fertility, increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, heightened risk of preeclampsia in pregnant people, and obesity.
Animal testing has also revealed that PFAS have the potential to cause birth defects and developmental delays in newborn animals.
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