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Frying your fresh fish in Forever Chemicals?

Frying your fresh fish in Forever Chemicals?

Did you just put that fish you caught into a pan with Forever Chemicals? If that's an old teflon pan that you kept for fishing and camping, best find another use for it 

And it's not just Teflon they are found in. It's pretty much everything. Puffer jackets, cleaning products, paints, food packaging, drinking water, fish, polishes, waxes, fire retardants etc etc. Forever Chemicals or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that were originally made famous by Teflon, but that's just the start of it. The problem with Forever Chemicals is that they are not only bad, they accumulate in your body over time. (ie they don't ever leave). You might be seeing more news about them as retailers are banning packaging now found to contain PFAS as their ubiquitous-ness & the extent of their persistence and health impacts comes to light.

PFAS have been manufactured since the 1940s and are man made chemicals used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water. PFAS constitute a class of over 3,000 fluorinated chemicals that persist in the environment for a very long time. The most studied chemicals in the class, PFOA and PFOS, have been associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, and other health effects. The vast majority of other PFAS have little to no data demonstrating their safety.

The most notorious PFAS compounds are PFOA, formerly used by DuPont to make Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard. The problem of persistence, ie that the chemicals don't break down and are cumulative over time, hence their name, means that most people have some PFAS in their body. The levels are growing and so are the health impacts.

The use of PFAS is increasingly banned, but because bans aren't global, and their use is so widespread, elimination is tricky especially as manufacturers of disposable food packaging and food service ware often add PFAS to impart moisture, oil, and grease resistance. PFAS are also added to fabrics, carpets, furniture, clothing, and fire-fighting foams for their non-stick, lubricating, waterproof, stain-resistant, and oil and grease resistant properties.

What's the PFAS story?

PFAS are highly persistent, ubiquitous, and can migrate into food from packaging and food service ware. And then, upon disposal, PFAS can contaminate drinking water, compost, and agricultural crops. According to the USA EPA,  PFAS can be found in:

  • Water resistant clothing, Cleaning products, Personal care products (shampoo, dental floss) and cosmetics (nail polish, eye makeup)
  • Paints, varnishes, and sealants
  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water
  • Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent carpets and fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs)
  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS
  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility)
  • Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time. (PFOS, in particular)

Why you should avoid PFAS

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, The health effects of PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA have been more widely studied than other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Some studies in humans with PFAS exposure have shown that PFAS may:

  • Interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • Increase cholesterol levels
  • Affect the immune system
  • Increase the risk of some cancers

Australia's inaction = class actions

From our research, PFAS are banned in South Australia and Queensland along with 171 other countries who have acted against PFAS, including Europe and the USA. But it is not the case in Victoria, WA and NSW where the ABC reports in a story about Erin Brockovich's class action on PFAS with Shine Lawyers, that the Department of Defence states that there is "limited to no evidence of human disease or other clinically significant harm resulting from PFAS exposure at this time".

The existence of PRAS in itself is bad enough, but when you see this kind of positioning, double down on doing your research.

The use of firefighting foam and PFAS are responsible for the contamination at Williamstown, Oakey, Katherine - impacting at least hundreds of homes. There are also many other areas around Australia and the world, including at least 25 sites in NSW - Shoalhaven, Botany Bay; and Bathurst, Bankstown, Camden and Tamworth airport sites.

Images: Unsplash - Icons 8 team / Joshua Earle | Department of Defence | ABC News
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