PFAS are synthetic chemicals found in many products like cosmetics, cleaning products, and nonstick cookware, and they are harmful to the environment and harmful for our health.
According to the latest research, exposure to PFAS has been linked to a range of potential health issues. These include a decrease in fertility and elevated blood pressure in pregnant women, an increased risk of certain cancers such as prostate, kidney, ovarian and testicular; a reduced ability for the body’s immune system to fight infections including vaccine response, interference with natural hormones, higher cholesterol levels, and an increased likelihood of obesity.
PFAS exposure can also contribute to gestational diabetes, a condition that affects pregnant women and can lead to complications during pregnancy and birth. Additionally, PFAS exposure can affect thyroid function. As PFAS are found in various products like cosmetics and personal care products, it is essential for women to be aware of their exposure and choose PFAS-free products whenever possible.
Researchers at the University of Florida have found that toilet paper is a significant source of PFAS in wastewater. One type of PFAS, called diPAPs, contributes about 4% of it to sewage in the United States and Canada, 35% in Sweden, and up to 89% in France. These chemicals do not break down easily in landfills and sewage, contaminating water sources and causing problems for humans and wildlife. We can reduce our exposure to PFAS by choosing PFAS-free products, avoiding clothing advertised as waterproof or stain-resistant, and looking for toilet paper made from alternative sources like bamboo.
Luckily, Thrive Market has bamboo paper towels and toilet tissue so it was not hard for me to stock. In terms of the feel and experience of the products, it feels the same as any other paper towel but is healthier so it seems like a really easy switch to make.
Other Ways to Reduce Exposure to PFAS
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals that have been widely used in industrial and consumer products for several decades. They are known to be persistent in the environment, bioaccumulative in living organisms, and harmful for our bodies. In recent years, there has been growing concern about the prevalence of PFAS and other harmful chemicals in everyday products and the need to reduce exposure to these substances.
While reducing exposure to PFAS and other harmful chemicals is not a simple task, there are several products and lifestyle changes that we can make to minimize our exposure to these substances. Here are some tips and resources to help identify and avoid products that contain PFAS and other harmful chemicals.
- Choose organic foods: Organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which can contain harmful chemicals, such as PFAS. By choosing organic foods, you can reduce your exposure to these substances and promote a healthier and more sustainable food system.
- Use natural cleaning products: A study by researchers at the University of California has found that both traditional and “green” cleaning products can release potentially hazardous chemicals into the air. These chemicals may be harmful and increase the risk of breast cancer, reproductive harm, and other health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. While “green” or “natural” cleaning products emit fewer harmful chemicals, some still contain fragrance chemicals that can be harmful. The study suggests using products certified as EPA’s Safer Choice products and ensuring proper ventilation while cleaning, and using personal protective equipment to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. It’s essential to read product labels and research brands to understand what chemicals are in them to reduce exposure.
- Avoid non-stick cookware: I get asked about cookware all the time and for good reason. Nonstick cookware often contains hazardous chemicals, including PFAS and PFOA, which has been linked to health risks, like liver damage, lowered immunity in kids, and other health concerns. PTFE, the coating on many nonstick pans, can produce fumes that are deadly to small birds and may be harmful to humans as well when overheated. Labels like “PFOA-free” may not be reliable, and even products made without PFOA may still contain it as a byproduct of other PFAS chemicals. Ceramic-coated pans that are PTFE-free, like the Red Copper and Always pans, are less likely to contain PFAS. Uncoated pans, like those made of cast iron or carbon steel, are also a good choice to avoid PFAS. This video does a great job of explaining why as a healthy eater stainless steel pans are better than carbon pans for your cooked dishes. To reduce exposure to PFAS, avoid overheating or scratching nonstick pans and consider replacing them if they become damaged. As for me though, I only use stainless steel pots and pans. I make sure there is no coating at all on my cookware, with the exception of my Ninja Foodie 9 in 1 which is unfortunate but the manufacturer says it has a ceramic-coating for that internal pot so it is free of these toxic chemicals I am mentioning in this article, making it ok for me right now. I don’t have any huge concerns on that front.
- Check product labels: PFAS is in grease-resistant food packaging and waterproof clothing. PFAS are toxic at extremely low levels and can cause a wide range of health risks including cancer, hormone disruption, liver and thyroid problems, reproductive harm, and abnormal fetal development. PFAS are nearly indestructible and can contaminate the environment easily. They are found in many consumer products, making them almost impossible to avoid. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the use of PFAS in their products, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate or test for most PFAS chemicals. You can protect yourself as best as possible from PFAS by avoiding products labeled as waterproof or stain-resistant, checking brand websites for PFAS-free clothing, and using home water filters to reduce PFAS contamination.
- Research product safety: There are several resources available online to help consumers identify and avoid products that contain PFAS and other harmful chemicals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition are two organizations that provide information and resources on product safety and chemical exposure.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
I know many of you that read this blog are professional health leaders serving others and the community and being a leader is no easy feat. You may be facing barriers that make it difficult to balance your work and personal life while prioritizing your health and wellness and adding in watching out for toxins in your cookware may seem like a lot. However, it’s essential to prioritize our health, which is self-care. Even when you feel like there’s not enough time in the day and you are overwhelmed thinking about how you will manage all the things. Here are some tips and advice to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle while juggling work and other responsibilities.
Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re eating healthy, especially when you have a busy schedule. Make a plan for your meals each week, and make sure you have healthy options on hand. Meal planning can also help you save money by reducing the number of times you eat out or order in. You can also meal prep on the weekends or whenever you have free time to make sure you have healthy meals ready to go during the week.
You can avoid issues of chemicals in cookware by consuming as much raw foods as possible. Many of us work from home so making a quick smoothie or putting a quick salad together takes less than 10 minutes. You can eat clean and be productive at the same time. Sacrifice is not needed here. You can have it all.
Also, if you live in a major city, juice bars and salad bars exist to get healthy food on the go. Support them and your health when in need of fast food.
It’s important to set boundaries for yourself and others to ensure that you have time for yourself and your loved ones. Set specific work hours, and stick to them as much as possible. This can help prevent burnout and ensure that you’re not constantly working around the clock. Also, don’t be afraid to say no to requests that don’t align with your priorities. It’s essential to prioritize your well-being and not feel guilty for doing so. Once your health is your North star, everything else falls in line. It is easy to make decisions once you know where your highest priority lies.
Self-care is crucial, especially when you’re juggling multiple responsibilities. It can be anything from taking a bubble bath to practicing meditation or yoga. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s something that makes you happy and relaxed. You can also try to incorporate self-care into your daily routine, such as taking a short walk during your lunch break or reading a book before bed. Small acts of self-care can make a big difference in how you feel. When you feel good, you make healthier choices.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety, improves sleep, and boosts your mood. Find an exercise routine that works for you, whether it’s going to the gym, weight lifting at home, taking a dance class, or going for a walk. Try to make exercise a regular part of your routine, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.
Connect with Others
As a leader, it can be helpful to connect with others who are facing similar challenges. Join a professional organization or networking group that is focused on supporting folks in leadership roles. You can also consider joining a mentorship program or finding a mentor who can offer guidance and support.
Although PFAS are a major health and environmental concern, taking steps to protect yourself from exposure is possible. Research product safety and make sure you’re informed about which products contain PFAS. Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of all these toxins in our environment and all of this extra work to be healthy. It may seem like a lot on top of all you have going on right now. Prioritize self-care, meal planning, setting boundaries, exercising and connecting with others to maintain a healthy lifestyle and just stay informed. Take the next best step for you. You don’t have to upend your whole life all at once. Make gradual shifts over time.