By: Elna Botes van Schalkwyk
Perfluoroalkyls, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), are chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers, are being ingested by people through their food and showing up as contaminants in blood. Microwave popcorn bags are lined with PFOA, and when they are heated the compound leaches onto the popcorn.
These chemicals are part of an expanding group of chemicals commonly referred to as "gender-bending" chemicals, because they can disrupt your endocrine system and affect your sex hormones. The EPA has ruled PFCs as "likely carcinogens," and has stated that PFOA "poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans."
Researchers have also linked various PFCs to a range of other health dangers, such as:
- Infertility -- A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that both PFOA and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), dramatically increased the odds of infertility. PFOA was linked to a 60 to 154 percent increase in the chance of infertility.
- Thyroid disease -- A 2010 study4 found that PFOA can damage your thyroid function. Individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease, compared to those with the lowest PFOA concentrations. Your thyroid contains thyroglobulin protein, which binds to iodine to form hormones, which in turn influence essentially every organ, tissue and cell in your body. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children. Thyroid disease, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis.
- Cancer -- PFOA has been associated with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests (liver, pancreas, testicles and mammary glands in rats), and has been associated with increases in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers.
- Immune system problems -- Several studies by scientists in Sweden indicate that PFCs have an adverse effect on your immune system. As described in a report on PFCs by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), PFOA was found to decrease all immune cell subpopulations studied, in the thymus and spleen, and caused immunosupression.
- Increased LDL cholesterol levels – A 2010 study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that children and teens with higher PFOA levels had higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL or "bad" cholesterol, while PFOS was associated with increased total cholesterol, including both LDL cholesterol and HDL or "good" cholesterol.
Worst Food Series 9: Soy Protein Isolate and Other Unfermented Soy Products Worst Food Series 7: Preservatives