Per-and-poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were accidentally discovered in the 1930s by chemical giants DuPont and 3M. This compound is a forever chemical that doesn’t break down and stays in the human body for a long time.
Initially, nobody knew about the harmful side effects of this chemical. Hence, various industries used PFAS to manufacture consumer products. Examples include cleaning supplies, paints, fire suppressants, nonstick cookware, etc.
Since the 1950s, this substance has been secretly hampering human health. However, research has shown that exposure to this chemical can lead to immunity issues, kidney cancer, high cholesterol, a low response to vaccines, etc.
While adults suffer severe consequences from PFAS exposure, the chemical is more risky for children. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), children eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air, increasing their risk of PFAS exposure.
In this blog, we will discuss how children get exposed to PFAS and more.
The Leading Cause of Environmental PFAS Contamination
Today, hundreds of public water systems in America, serving 46 million residents, have high concentrations of PFAS. This substance can get into water supplies through landfills and chemical spills into rivers and lakes. Moreover, wastewater treatment plants can contaminate the soil with PFAS. If your child drinks this water or plays near contaminated land, they can get exposed to such harmful elements.
But one of the biggest reasons why this forever chemical is found in water supplies is because of firefighting efforts. Since the 1960s, firefighters have used aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) to combat Class B fuel fires. During that time, people were unaware of the harmful side effects of PFAS. Hence, manufacturers used high concentrations of this forever chemical.
Upon using this fire extinguisher, the firefighters left behind toxic forever chemicals that slowly seeped into the water supply. As a result, the surrounding land and air became contaminated with harmful particles.
Moreover, multiple years of AFFF exposure caused firefighters and industrial workers to develop various health issues that were passed down to their children. These include low birth weights, thyroid hormone issues, cancer, developmental defects, etc.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers were aware of the PFAS content but failed to warn the victims about its effects on human health. That’s why the affected individuals and their family members filed an AFFF foam lawsuit.
The plaintiffs have alleged failure to warn and requested compensation for lost wages, loss of consortium, permanent disability, medical expenses, etc. According to TorHoerman Law, victims must have proof like medical records, a history of AFFF usage, witness testimony, and cancer diagnosis information. These could help victims secure compensation worth USD 40,000 to USD 300,000.
All these prove that your child won’t be safe from PFAS exposure if you don’t know what to look for or the ways to reduce it.
Detecting PFAS Exposure in Your Child
Contaminated soil and water are the leading causes of PFAS exposure in your child. But there are other ways they can get exposed. For example, this chemical can get into their body through certain seafood, non-stick cookware, and food packaging.
If you suspect they’ve been exposed, you must take your child to a doctor. A report suggests that healthcare providers will perform a blood test on anyone likely to have a PFAS exposure history. These special blood tests will measure the amount of these compounds in your child’s blood.
Once tested, the doctor will classify the levels as either ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe.’ Technically, your child might have an ‘unsafe’ level if you reside near fire stations and industrial locations. Thankfully, they will develop health issues only if they are continuously exposed to PFAS for a few years.
However, the results cannot determine the future health risks for your child. If exposed, they might have developmental effects like bone variations, accelerated puberty, and behavioral changes. Over time, there’s an increased risk of cancer, a high obesity rate, and reduced immunity.
While there are no treatments available to remove this substance from the body, you can surely prevent future exposures. All you have to do is detect the contamination source and stop it from happening again.
How to Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to PFAS?
Yes, PFAS is widespread in the environment. That’s why you cannot completely eliminate its exposure. But there are some ways to reduce the exposure rate for your child and stop contamination at home:
- Use a water filter that is certified to remove harsh chemicals.
- Regularly test the local water system in your community.
- Avoid feeding your child seafood before checking the fish advisories in your area.
- You shouldn’t buy stain-resistant upholstery or carpets.
- Clean, mop, and vacuum your home every other day to remove dust buildup.
- Don’t use Teflon pans or pots. Instead, go for cast-iron or stainless steel cookware.
- Avoid feeding your child restaurant food right from takeout containers.
As a parent, you should also avoid using personal care products or beauty products that have PFAS. These include nail polish, shampoo, floss, etc.
In conclusion, even a little bit of PFAS exposure can be detrimental to your child’s health. Thankfully, the government is taking action by cleaning up PFAS contamination and setting standards for public water systems. Even then, you should be aware of how to save your child from this risk.
For example, you should mop your house, use safe cookware, and check your drinking water regularly. Similarly, if you suspect your child has been exposed, immediately take them to the hospital for a blood test.