Use Spring Cleaning to Toss Items Posing Risk to Women's Health

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Starting to think about spring cleaning? One of the things that you may want to toss out this spring is anything made with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which can pose serious threat to your health as a women.

    Let’s start with the effect of PFCs on women’s reproductive abilities, as I reported in an earlier blog.  A study publishedin 2011 found that women who had higher levels of PFCs have a greater chance of going through early menopause. This study, which involved 25,957 women between the ages of 18 and 65, found that PFC exposure was linked with lower levels of the female sex hormone estradiol as well as going through early menopause in women who were over the age of 42. The study noted that 98 percent of American adults have measurable concentrations of PFCs in their body.

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    And new research out of Yale University suggest a link between exposure to two specific PFCs - perflurooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS) -  and osteoarthritis in women. The study included more than 4,000 men and women between the ages of 20-94 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003-2009.

    The researchers’ analysis found higher concentrations of serum PFOA were associated with osteoarthritis in women only; additionally, PFOS were also associated with osteoarthritis only, although there were not significant effect estimates. Interestingly, the connection between PFCs and osteoarthritis seemed to be stronger among women between the ages of 20-49 as opposed to women between the ages of 50-84.

    So what are PFCs? According to the Washington Toxics Coalition, PFCs are a group of fluorine-containing chemicals. “Manufacturers have developed a host of chemicals in this family to repel oil and water from clothing, carpeting, furniture such as mattresses, and food packaging such as pizza boxes and fast-food containers,” the coalition’s website states. For instance, PFOA is used to make Teflon™ products while PFOs have been used to make Scotchgard products. Additionally, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) pointed out that PFCs also are used in a variety of industries such as aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics because they reduce friction.

    So how do get PFCs in our bodies? PFCs have been released from manufacturing facilities over time, thus getting into the food and some water supplies. NIEHS stated that these substances “break down very slowly in the environment and are often characterized as persistent.” Additional exposure can happen through consumer products, house dust and food packaging. For instance, did you know that microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes have PFCs? So in fact do some shampoos, dental floss and dental cleaners.

    NIEHS reported that some PFCs are being discontinued. For instance, PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States. Furthermore, PFOA production has been reduced and will end soon.

    Still, you need to be vigilant in trying to reduce your exposure as well as that of your family. You can do this through:

    • Avoid food packages that contain grease-repellent coatings.
    • Avoid stain-resistant treatments and don’t apply finish treatments to items in your home.
    • Opt for clothing that has not been treated for water or stain resistance. This includes outwear, sportswear, shoes, luggage, camping equipment and sporting equipment.
    • Read labels when purchasing personal-care products.  Do not select products made with Teflon or that contain words that include “fluro” or “perfluro.” These terms can be found in dental floss, nail polish, facial moisturizers, eye make-up and other cosmetic products.
    • Avoid using Teflon or non-stick cookware. If you do use this type of cookware, do not let it heat up beyond 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, do not leave this type of cookware unattended on the stove. Do not use this cookware in hot ovens or grills. Also, be sure to throw away the product if you start noticing deterioration in the non-stick coating.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    MedlinePlus. (2013). Chemicals in cookware, carpets may raise arthritis risk in women.

    National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2012). Perfluorinated chemicals.

    Uhl, S. A., et al. (2013). Association of osteoarthritis with perfluorooctanoate and perfluorooctate sulfonate in NHANES 2003-2008. Environmental Health Perspectives.

    U.S. News & World Report. (2011). High levels of PFCs might bring early menopause.

    Washington Toxic Coalition. (nd.) Perfluorinated compounds.

Published On: February 17, 2013