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PFAS: What to Know?

What Is PFAS?

PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances. (You may know them by an older term “PFCs,” or perfluorochemicals).

It’s a group of chemicals that manufacturers use to make everyday household products, as well as things in industries like:

  • Aerospace
  • Construction
  • Electronics
  • The military

PFAS chemicals don't break down easily over time. Because of that, some scientists are concerned that these chemicals could build to levels that could harm the environment -- and your body. While there are studies that show evidence of this, we need more research to be sure of their effects on humans.

Eight major chemical companies entered into an agreement called the PFOA Stewardship Program to stop production of certain PFAS in the U.S. But they can still come in through imported products. And U.S. manufacturers continue to make and use other PFAS.

What Are the Health Effects of PFAS?

PFAS from foods or drinks build up in your body and stay there for a long time. Some studies suggest that high levels of PFAS can lead to things like:

Research continues so that we can learn more about the relationship between PFAS and your health.

How Do I Take in PFAS?

You can get low levels of them through:

  • Soil and water that helps grow food
  • Certain food packaging
  • Some processing equipment

In some communities, PFAS have seeped into the water supply. You can learn about your local water supply by asking your local government for your area's drinking water quality report.

PFAS can also get into your system as you come in contact with certain products made to be nonstick, stain-repellent, or water-repellent like:

  • Carpet
  • Leather
  • Clothing
  • Packaging material
  • Nonstick cookware

Workers might also breathe in these substances at facilities that make PFAS or use them to create other products.

You might also take in PFAS through your makeup. A 2021 study tested 231 cosmetic products. More than half contained PFAS. The types of makeup with the most were:

  • Foundations
  • Mascaras
  • Lip products

Most of these did not list PFAS as an ingredient on the label.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “What are the health effects of PFAS?” “Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) Factsheet.”

EPA: “Basic Information on PFAS,” “Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS.”

Environmental Science & Technology: “Fluorinated Compounds in North American Cosmetics.”

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: “Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).”

USGS: "Where can I find information about my local drinking water supply?"

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