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:
- 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:
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Lower birth weight
- Changes to your immune system
- Thyroid problems
- A higher chance of kidney or testicular cancer
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:
- Packaging material
- Nonstick cookware
Workers might also breathe in these substances at facilities that make PFAS or use them to create other products.
- Lip products
Most of these did not list PFAS as an ingredient on the label.