High PFAS Exposure leading to Health Problems?

PFAS chemicals seem to be everywhere these days, but are they dangerous? In this article we dive into the man-made chemicals that have been linked to certain cancers.

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PFAS chemicals

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What are PFAS?

PFAS have increasingly been featured in news stories around the world as new research highlights their increased presence in wildlife and humans. So, what are PFAS? Well, PFAS is short for Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. They are a group of man-made “forever chemicals” that are used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. 

PFAS chemicals

What are PFAS used for?

A great example of products that use PFAS are non-stick pans and other cookware. These chemicals make the outer layer of the cookware stick resistant. Other products that use PFAS coatings include:

  • Some jackets, shoes and clothing
  • Furniture
  • Adhesives
  • Food packaging
  • Fast food wrappers
  • Heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces
  • Waterproofing
  • Some cosmetics
  • Personal care products
  • Stain repellants
  • Insulation for electrical wires
  • Firefighting foams

Where are PFAS found?

Most of the common types of PFAS are PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid). Both compounds do not break down easily, having a half life of roughly 3 years. As a result, these chemicals remain in our environment for a long period of time. Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products.

Major Concerns

Some of the major concerns of PFAS include:

  • The durability of the chemicals and how they do not break down in the environment easily.
  • They can quickly move through the soil and contaminate drinking water sources like underground wells.
  • Like in humans, these chemicals can build up in fish and other wildlife.

What are the risks of PFAS?

PFAS have recently been linked to several health risks. Some of these health risks include certain cancers, developmental issues, reduced immune function, hormonal interference and heightened cholesterol levels. In June of 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency released a press release stating:

contaminated water

"The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect at this time. The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health."

They continued by stating, “These actions build on EPA’s progress to safeguard communities from PFAS pollution and scientifically inform upcoming efforts, including EPA’s forthcoming proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFOA and PFOS, which EPA will release in the fall of 2022.”

Increased PFAS Exposure at Work

Some professions are more prone to increased levels of exposure to PFAS. Teflon and Scotchgard are chemicals used in Firefighters’ turn out gear to protect them from water, oil and heat. Unfortunately, these chemicals contain PFOAs. In addition to the gear they use, the firefighting foam used to fight fires known as aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) also contain PFAS.

Increased PFAS Exposure from Disasters

Earlier this month, the state of Ohio experienced a major train wreck derailing a total of 38 train cars that resulted in over 115,000 gallons Vinyl Chloride spilling into the environment. This man-made chemical is a colorless gas that is used to create a hard plastic resin that can be used for plastic products.  According to the EPA, short-term exposure to vinyl chloride can lead to damage to the nervous system, while long-term exposure has the potential to cause cancer and liver damage.

Can you avoid PFAS?

Although there are a lot of everyday products that may contain PFAS, there are some small things you can do to reduce your exposure levels:

  • Reduce Use of Certain Products

    Be mindful of food packaging and fast food wrappers. While at the store, check product labels for ingredients that include the words "fluoro" or "perfluoro." Also, avoid stain-resistant or water-resistant treatments and stop using cookware with non-stick coatings after they show signs of wear.

  • Check Your Drinking Water

    Check with your municipality if they test for PFAS levels in the public water system. Check if your bottled water has a NSF label or an IBWA seal.

  • Be Cautious with Wild Fish

    Make sure to follow local wildlife guidelines when fishing or eating fish caught in the wild.

What do you do if you have suffered an illness from over exposure to PFAS?

At Fleming, Nolen & Jez, our personal injury lawyers have dedicated their careers to fighting for the rights of injured victims throughout the United States. If you were seriously injured from over exposure to PFAS, you may be able to file a lawsuit to secure the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to speak with one of our specialists to review your case information.

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