Perpetual chemicals hidden in the body

What do raincoats, pizza boxes, frozen vegetable packaging and non-stick frying pans have in common? They all contain perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS).
Perpetual chemicals hidden in the body


Known as “forever chemicals” by experts, they could be damaging human health. Roland Weber, an environmental consultant with the United Nations, describes them as “one of the most threatening chemicals ever invented.” Some 4,500 human-made substances fall under the PFAS designation, and residues from this family of chemicals are now found across the globe — in soil, drinking water, food, animals and even inside the human body.
Some 98% of Americans have PFAS in their blood. Studies from India, Indonesia and the Philippines found the toxic substances in nearly all breastmilk samples tested. Every child in Germany has forever chemicals inside them, and in a fifth of those cases, concentrations exceed critical levels.
This made me wonder about the levels of forever toxins in my own body. Finding out is not easy as there are very few specialist labs in Germany able to perform the necessary tests. But I managed to locate one, IPASUM, in the southern city of Erlangen. I sent them a blood sample. It was analysed for PFOA and PFOS — the best-known forever chemicals — which can cause liver and kidney damage, decrease male fertility, and affect the weight of newborn babies as well as the effectiveness of vaccines. In high concentrations, they can lead to cancer. New studies have also indicated a link between the chemicals and severe cases of COVID-19. The lab found 4 nanograms of PFOA and PFOS per litre of my blood. That’s around a thousandth of the weight of a grain of sand and means I’m well below critical levels and in line with the German average.
Thomas Göen, a professor at IPASUM, who carried out the analysis, told me these concentrations present no risk according to current scientific knowledge. But the results didn’t put my mind at ease because the substances are persistent and can accumulate in the body.
“And that’s the main problem,” Göen said, “that in the end they may accumulate in a dose, which might be a problematic concentration.” Some animals with high PFAS concentrations experience changes in their hormone levels as well as to their liver and thyroid function. There has been little research on their impact on ecosystems.
In 1938, US chemicals concern DuPont invented PTFE, one of the first PFAS chemicals. As it was able to protect metal from corrosion at incredibly high temperatures, they used it in the first atomic bomb.
PTFE soon appeared in households around the globe as a durable coating on frying pans under the brand name “Teflon.” It was a huge commercial success. But in 1998, the non-stick brand found itself in a sticky situation when a livestock farmer said his cows grazing near a Teflon production plant in Parkersburg West Virginia were wasting away and dropping dead. It soon came out that thousands of people in the region had been contaminated with PFAS through sewage from the DuPont factory and leaking landfill waste. Documents show that DuPont — unlike state authorities — had known of the danger for decades but continued to discharge the toxic substance into the environment. Other countries, including The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, have seen cases of PFAS contaminating drinking water and the environment. Some of these forever chemicals are now being phased out in the EU, the USA and Japan, and the amount detected in the population has steadily decreased. In Germany, the average has more than halved since 1990. In response to the crackdown, the chemicals industry is manufacturing a new generation of PFAS that differ very little from their predecessors, but don’t fall under the ban for now.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle

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