Are we slowly being killed by our clothes and pans? The case of PFAS
If you have never come across them before, let me introduce you to Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances otherwise known as PFAS. They are also sometimes referred to as “Forever Chemicals.” The American National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences describes them this way:
PFAS are a large, complex, and ever-expanding group of manufactured chemicals that are widely used to make various types of everyday products. For example, they keep food from sticking to cookware, make clothes and carpets resistant to stains, and create firefighting foam that is more effective. PFAS are used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics, and military.
PFAS molecules are made up of a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. Because the carbon-fluorine bond is one of the strongest, these chemicals do not degrade in the environment. In fact, scientists are unable to estimate an environmental half-life for PFAS, which is the amount of time it takes 50% of the chemical to disappear.
The second paragraph should raise concerns. Anything so chemically stable that it doesn’t degrade in the natural environment is likely to cause problems for biological systems, including human beings. This is certainly the view of the FDA, which has the following to say about PFAS:
The widespread use of PFAS and their ability to remain intact in the environment means that over time PFAS levels from past and current uses can result in increasing levels of environmental contamination. Accumulation of certain PFAS has also been shown to occur in humans and animals, as found through blood tests. While the science surrounding potential health effects of PFAS is developing, current evidence suggests that the bioaccumulation of certain PFAS may cause serious health conditions.
And so, why are we talking about them now?
A recently published study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has provided evidence that forever chemicals can lead to up to two years premature menopause in women. Why is this a problem? Earlier menopause has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and earlier cardiovascular and overall mortality, and environmental exposure may accelerate ovarian aging. The authors naturally highlight the need for further research to confirm their findings.
Besides all this, just ask any woman who is going through or has undergone “the change” if it’s an enjoyable experience that she would recommend. The majority response will be in the negative.