A new reason to be concerned about the chemicals on nonstick pans, waterproof products, and firefighting foam was announced this year and it has men all over the globe concerned. The same nonstick chemicals found in Teflon pots and pans were recently linked to low sperm count and smaller penises. Could this impact your family? Possibly. But never fear, Mamavation is here to help! You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like 12 reasons to ditch your plastic kitchen utensils, how BPA has been linked to obesity in children, & innovative probiotic products, now join us as we go explore the topic of perfluorinated chemicals and male infertility and what you can do inside your home to protect the men in your life.
Researchers affiliated with the Endocrine Society published a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism linking PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) chemicals to reduced fertility in male mice, rats, and rabbits. Although this study was done on animals, researchers are suggesting that similar issues could be happening with human males as well. This study suggests PFC chemicals are linked to a range of problems with the male reproductive system and also demonstrates how these chemicals are interfering with hormones inside the cell. And it makes perfect sense because researchers recently found out human male sperm has degraded nearly 60% since the 1970s. Today the search is on as to what environmental factors are the culprit.
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The Story on Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) originally made their splash in consumer products inside pans with Teflon. But this chemical class has been inside the homes of Americans for years in products like nylon, Lycra, Gore-Tex & Tyvek. It works by reducing the surface tension of water which makes things slippery yet stable. It was eventually used in hundreds of products in homes like nonstick pots & pans, waterproof clothing, stain-proof coatings for carpets & furniture, fire-fighting foam, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, coatings of pizza boxes, & coatings for eyeglasses. Problems arose when studies starting linking this chemical class to health issues.
Concerns about the safety of perfluorinated chemicals started about a decade ago after the DuPont Corporation settled a lawsuit for $70 MILLION in 2005. Since then, internal DuPont documents emerged proving the company knew about the dangers of the chemical for decades. DuPont scientists had studied the chemical and through their own research found it was linked to health problems. Instead of alerting their workers, people living near the plant and the community about the dangers of the chemical, they kept the knowledge secret and continued to sell the chemical and release it into the environment.
Today this man-made chemical is found in about 99.7% of Americans according to a 2007 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control. It’s also found persisting in the environment inside wildlife like Loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, harbor seals, polar bears, bald eagles, polar bears, lions, tigers, caribou, walruses, and arctic birds.
The Nonstick Chemical Fertility Study
The research study was conducted in Veneto, Italy where PFAS chemicals have contaminated drinking water and have lead to the chemical accumulating in people’s blood. The researchers compared 212 male high school students who have been exposed to PFOA and PFOS chemicals to 171 men who had not been exposed in Northern Italy. They found that young men who were exposed to PFOA and PFOS had shorter penises, lower sperm counts, lower sperm mobility, and a reduction in “androgenital distance”, which is the distance between the penis and the anus. It’s quite shocking how this chemical can cause very physical differences like the ones observed.
Therefore, PFC chemicals are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can disrupt the development of male sexuality, but the differences were striking. Men who were exposed to PFC chemicals had a 12.5% shorter penis and 6.3% thinner penis than other men. This chemical has also been linked to lessening the amount of testosterone inside the body, which can also cause problems with sexual development. These findings are consistent with what researchers are discovering about chemicals that mask themselves as testosterone in the body.
“The structures of testosterone and PFAS are very, very similar,” said Andrea Di Nisio, a biologist at the University of Padova and a co-author of the study. “And we said, ‘They look the same, so maybe PFAS act like Testosterone in the cell.’ And they did.”
Health Problems Linked to Perfluorinated Chemicals
There are numerous health problems linked to perfluorinated chemicals found in nonstick pots and pans, food packaging and firefighting foam. So it’s very important to start looking for ways to lessen these chemicals in your home. PFCS chemicals are linked to the health ailments below:
- low sperm count and smaller penis size
- metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- reduced vaccination response
- affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- increase cholesterol levels
- affect the immune system
- increase the risk of cancer like testicular, prostate and breast cancers
What Products Contain Perfluorinated Chemicals
Perfluorinated chemicals are part of modern life, but most of the time perfluorinated chemicals are finding their way into your body through food packaging OR tap water. Many products contain perfluorinated chemicals like nonstick pots & pans, waterproof clothing, stain-proof coatings for carpets & furniture, fire-fighting foam, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, coatings of pizza boxes, & coatings for eyeglasses. But even though this chemical is everywhere, for sanity purposes I’d focus on food packaging & tap water as a way to reduce it.
Food packaging contains chemicals that are categorized as “indirect additives” by the Feds. There are over 3,000 chemicals approved by the Feds as indirect additives for food, so tracking them all down is close to impossible. And to make matters worse, companies are not required to tell you what indirect additives they are using in their products. And because indirect additives easily become part of your meal when they are heated or touching fat or citric acid, it becomes problematic in general to eat food with packaging. Therefore if you would like to avoid perfluorinated chemicals in food packaging, avoid food in packaging. Things like pizza boxes, microwave popcorn, wrappers and any other packaging that is nonstick, grease-proof or waterproof would be suspect. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also warned the public that these indirect additives in packaging are very problematic to pregnant women and children.
Because this chemical is persistent, it’s finding its way into the water supply all over the United States. In fact, Mamavation was just recently at an event at the Endowment Center in Los Angeles where the topic was about how to get perfluorinated chemicals out of the water supply. This event was attended by professionals from water districts all over Southern California and the mood of the room was very somber. This is something water professionals are starting to wake up to, but the problem is widespread. How do you find out if your tap water contains PFC chemicals? Well, in California, water districts are not mandated to test for this chemical and alert the public yet, so you may need to send a sample to a lab instead. In order to get perfluorinated chemicals out of tap water, it’s recommended you get a reverse-osmosis water filtration system.
Quick Tips to Avoid ALL PFC Chemicals
- Phase out the nonstick cookware in your kitchen. Here are some alternatives.
- Avoid foods with packaging and make things yourself at home
- Avoid fast food as much as possible, even the ones touting themselves as “better”
- Purchase a reverse osmosis water system for your home
- When purchasing furniture or carpet, decline optional treatments for stain and dirt resistance. This is where you can find safer furniture.
- Avoid buying clothing that bears a label indicating it’s water, stain or dirt repellant
- Avoid buying personal care products with the phrase “fluoro” or “perfluoro” on the ingredient list. You’ll find this inside lotion, pressed powders, nail polish, and shaving cream.