The FDA recently reported finding levels of PFAs chemicals (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in some of the foods we eat. In a statement, they also say, “Overall, our findings did not detect PFAs in the vast majority of the food tested” and that these substances are not a human health concern in the levels they did find. But, the FDA also acknowledges that “the bioaccumulation of certain PFAs may cause serious health conditions.”
So what does this mean for us?
First, let’s break down PFAs.
What Are PFAs Chemicals?
PFAs, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are synthetic chemicals found in things like non-stick cookware, food packaging, and some household chemicals. They were first made in the 1930s as the main ingredients for non-stick coatings.
PFAs are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they take thousands of years to degrade and can build up in people’s bodies over time.
Sophie J. Balk MD, pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, New York and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health tells Parentology that food and water contaminated with PFAs are more likely to be found around manufacturing plants where these compounds are found.
Why Are PFAs Dangerous?
“They are a wide range of health effects linked to PFAs like problems with the liver, cholesterol levels, and lipids, body weight issues, hormone levels, suppressed antibodies, and linkage to tumor formation,” says Balk.
There are also always concerns when it comes to kids and chemical exposure because they’re growing and developing at such a rapid pace.
Where Are PFAs Found?
According to the Environmental Working Group and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University, PFAs are found in the drinking water of 43 states. That has some officials working hard to better regulate drinking water.
What’s been causing concern lately and raised a few eyebrows is the detection of PFAs in some foods. The FDA tests found levels of PFAs in samples of foods like chicken, tilapia, hot dogs, beef and chocolate cake, just to name a few. The fact that industrial chemicals can get into our food supply is a concern for many health advocates.
“If your state has told you that there is a problem with your water, then it is a good idea to use an alternative source for drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth,” says Balk. The same goes for information about fish or other foods in your area.
Besides the actual food you’re making for your family, you also want to be mindful of the cookware you’re using since PFAs are known to be found in non-stick cookware.
Balk tells Parentology that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises people to replace any chipped or cracked non-stick cookware, or to just use stainless steel or cast iron equipment instead. Also, be sure to only use the cookware at recommended temperatures because anything hotter can break down the chemicals.
East Carolina University toxicology professor Jamie DeWitt recently told BuzzFeed News that the risks PFAs pose is based on how much contaminated food or water a person consumes and how frequently. DeWitt says, “I would be concerned if this was a consistent part of my diet every day, or my child’s diet every day.”
This is why the FDA is taking steps to monitor the amount of PFAs that turn up in our food supply. In a statement, the government agency says, “To ensure we are taking the best approach to this complex issue, we have established an internal agency PFAS workgroup with representatives from the human and animal foods programs.”
This group will use data and take new samples to estimate the overall exposure to PFAs. It will also work to reduce exposure to PFAs in human and animal food.
LifeScience: What are PFAS?
BuzzFeed: FDA’s First Tests for “Forever Chemicals” in Food Found them in Meat and Chocolate Cake
AP News: FDA: Sampling Finds Toxic Non-Stick Compounds in Some Food
US Food & Drug Administration: Statement re: PFAS
EWG: PFAS Contamination in the US
US Food & Drug Administration: Per and PFAS