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What are PFAS?

The term PFAS has been littering headlines over the past few years. Understandably, as you will find out in this article, it has been causing concern. We will go over what they actually are and why it is important to reduce your contact with them.

First of all PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The term is given to a group of man-made chemicals which have been strongly bonded by fluorine and carbon. Due to this strong bond, PFAS are particularly resilient and durable. Therefore such chemicals can be used in many industrial processes and products. PFAS are commonly found in textiles, water proofing treatment, food paper wrappings, cable coatings and many other everyday items. A well-known example is the Teflon ‘non-stick’ pan.

These chemicals have been around since the 1940s and will stick around for a long time to come. That is why they are known as ‘forever chemicals’; not biodegrading and staying in the natural environment for decades. So when these everyday items are thrown away the toxic chemicals seep into the soil. Once leaking into the ground, they make their way into our natural water systems.

Are They Harmful?

The use of certain chemicals such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), have been restricted in the UK. Scientific studies had found that exposure to these particular chemicals had resulted in adverse effects in humans and animals. However, it seems that more research needs to be undertaken before governments can take this issue seriously.

PFAS exposure has been linked to a whole host of health conditions in humans. They can result in the development of health problems such as liver damage, thyroid issues, weight gain, infertility and increased cancer risk.

PFAS and Drinking Water

Whilst PFAS chemicals are accumulating in our bodies, governments are slow to set a limit and regulate these toxins in our water supplies. The EU is due to put in place a standard of 0.1 micrograms per litre for 20 individual substances. Bear in mind, there are currently around 15000 chemicals in the PFAS category.

Due to poor regulation, with every glass of tap water we drink, we could be ingesting unknown levels of toxic chemicals. Before you go out and buy bottled water, let us save you the trip. Unfortunately, bottled water has also been found to contain these forever chemicals.

How Can We Reduce Our Exposure?

1. Say no to non-stick: swap out your non-stick cookware for stainless steel or cast iron. Even if pots and pans state they are PFOA-free this doesn’t mean they are free of nasty chemical treatments.

2. Throw-out scratched up pans: definitely get rid of your cookware if the non-stick coating is coming off. Don’t use abrasive scouring pads on non-stick pans as this will release more of those harmful toxins into your food.

3. Fast food is worse than you think: grease resistant food packaging, often used by fast food retailers, contains PFAS chemicals. We know they’re unhealthy but the worst thing about greasy burgers is the wrappers they are packaged in. Grease resistant burger wrappers, fast food boxes and microwave popcorn bags have all been found to contain these compounds. Unfortunately this also extends to some grease-proof baking paper. So it is important that you do your research and take your health into your own hands.

4. Say yes to filtered water: drinking filtered water will remove as much as 90% of PFAS chemicals from your water supply, according to research. On average some water filter jugs can remove 50% of these chemicals. However under sink filters have proved much more efficient at ridding your water supply of toxins.

5. Think twice before you buy a new sofa: stain resistant coatings on soft furnishings are useful, especially if you have pets or small children at home. However, these coatings contain chemicals that we come in contact with every day. Choose treatment-free carpets and sofas and keep them clean with natural methods. Alternatively, use washable throws or covers as protection from grubby hands and paws.

Next steps…

So, until the government makes changes to the regulations governing the use of PFAS chemicals, we have to seek alternatives. If chemicals and contaminants in the water supply are concerning you, get in touch with our experts, who will be happy to help. Aquatiere have a whole host of water filter solutions for your budget, home and place of work.