PFOA, PTFE, PFOS Can Lead to Thyroid, Heart, Liver and Immune System Disorders
By: Gloria Gilbère, DAHom, PhD
There are three chemicals which have finally caught the attention of medical researchers and public health officials— Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, aka C8), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Okay, so now you’re thinking, “what in the heck are they and where are they found”?
They are stable compounds used in a large variety of products that make our life easier; albeit not healthier. Their presence in the environment, and the extreme toxicity shown in animal research, raises concern even over low-level chronic exposure on human health.
These toxic compounds have a wide range of uses including, but not limited to…
- stain- and water-resistant coatings especially for carpets, fabrics and fast-food containers;
- fire-resistant foams;
- hydraulic fluids and;
- non-stick (cooking) surfaces to mention a few.
PFOA acid is present in up to 98% of Americans
The residue from these toxic substances is reported widespread persistence in the environment, wildlife and human populations globally. Bio-monitoring of humans in various countries shows ubiquitous presence of PFOS and PFOA in:
- breast milk;
- seminal fluid and;
- umbilical cord blood.
Presence of these toxic substances are reported in conditions that include liver enlargement, modulation of sex hormone homeostasis, cardiovascular disorders, developmental and immune system toxicity, hypo-lipidemia, impaired thyroid hormone function, and endocrine disorders.
A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, shows that the highest PFOA levels were associated with 78% higher odds of peripheral artery disease (PAD)— a heart condition in which the arteries in the limbs narrow and harden. If this substance does this to our arteries, image what it can be doing to other organs!
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the trace amounts of PFOA found in consumer products are generally a remnant of the manufacturing process and do not appear to pose a threat to human health. Still, the agency is working with several large companies to eliminate PFOA and related chemicals from products and factory emissions by 2015.
Prior studies in humans, animals and petri dishes have suggested several pathways through which PFOA might affect heart health. PFOA exposure has been associated, for instance, with blood-vessel dysfunction, high “bad” cholesterol (LDL), low “good” cholesterol (HDL), and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Other Toxic Exposures to PFOA
PFOA has also been detected in industrial waste, stain resistant carpets and carpet cleaning products, house dust, microwave popcorn bags, water, food, and cookware with PTFE as in Teflon™.
As reported in The Record— West Virginia’s Legal Journal, a recent independent panel of scientists in Vienna, Austria linked PFOA exposure to thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis. In its most recent set of reports, the panel added these two disorders to the growing list of diseases linked to the chemical which, unfortunately, was released into Parkersburg W.V. area drinking water sources.
Thyroid disease affects the butterfly-shaped gland in a person’s neck, located just above the collarbone. The thyroid is an endocrine gland and makes hormones. It helps set a person’s metabolism and how the body gets energy from the foods consumed. A person with a thyroid disease—of any kind—uses energy more slowly, or quickly, than he or she should.
Meanwhile, ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon. It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel disease.— ulcers form where inflammation has killed the cells that usually provide the protective lining of the colon.
The panel previously linked exposure to PFOA to kidney and testicular cancer in its second set of probable link reports released in April.
PTFE is the registered trade name of Teflon™, a highly useful plastic material in a class known as fluoropolymers—the most common being polyester, and nylon. PTFE is widely used to infuse stain-resistance to fabrics, carpets, wall coverings, and for weather-proofing outdoor signs. It has also been woven into fiber for socks, the low friction of the fabric makes the socks exceptionally smooth and protects against blisters and sore spots, yet can be toxic.
According to tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the organization whose reputation is beyond reproach, reported that Teflon surfaces for cookware and non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to perhaps thousands of pet bird deaths and unknown number of human illnesses annually—they have truly been the “canaries in the coal mine” and that is a warning for us all. The toxic effects are released in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove-top.
A newer test conducted by a university food safety professor showed that a generic non-stick pan reheated on a conventional, electric stove-top burner reached 736°F in just 3 minutes and 20 seconds—with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated. A Teflon pan reached 721°F in just 3 minutes under the same test conditions. DuPont studies show that the Teflon off-gasses toxic particulates at 446°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including tow carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans even in very low doses. DuPont scientists claim that temperatures on stove-tops drip pans reach 1,000°F, keep in mind that non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB—a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.
DuPont claims that its coating remains intact indefinitely at 500°F. Experiences of consumers whose birds have died from fumes generated at lower temperatures show that this is not the case. In one case researchers at the University of Missouri documented the death of about 1,000 broiler chicks exposed to off-gassing from coated heat lamps at 396°F.
DuPont also claims that human illness will be produced only in cases involved gross over-heating, or burning the food to an inedible state. Yet DuPont’s own scientists have concluded that polymer fume fever in humans is possible at 662°F, a temperature easily exceeded when a pan is preheated on a burner, placed beneath a broiler, or in a self-cleaning oven.
What’s REALLY Cooking?
Overheating of PTFE generates fumes that are highly toxic—posing a very serious health hazard to the human respiratory tract. Inhalation of this gas can cause pulmonary edema (swelling)—which can lead to death. These toxic gases are included in Schedule 2 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), as a result of prompting by one delegation to the Conference on Disarmament…do you want to be exposing yourself and others to this toxic substance?
The Way I See It…
There is no need for panic, but there is a need for education about products and chemicals that are toxic to life—human and animals—and become aware of safe options. I have devoted my professional life to Health thru Education© for that specific reason. Below are suggestions of how to live healthy in a toxic world as I teach my clients and students of Wholistic Rejuvenation:
- Use well-seasoned cast-iron, stainless steel, enameled, or glass cookware;
- Avoid or limit clothing with stain-resistant finishes, instead use all natural fiber clothing, especially for the very young whose immune systems are just developing and those with compromised immunity disorders;
- Avoid clothing with flame-retardants, especially for infants and children;
- Avoid or limit use of polyester and nylon;
- When installing new carpet or furnishings, order without stain-resistant coatings when possible. If these finishes cannot be avoided, put off purchases until summer when items can be off-gassed outdoors in a hot patio for several days. Also important is to purchase mattresses without stain-resistant and fire-retardant finishes. Many manufacturers will avoid toxic finishes if you tell them you have or are avoiding toxic chemicals and/or you have a note from your health care provider that those finishes should be avoided for health reasons. When possible, avoid carpet and opt for hard surface flooring.
- Insure that all painted surfaces are with NO VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, NOT LOW VOC, especially for infants, children and those with immune-compromised disorders.