There’s a lot going on in the world right now, especially when it comes to climate emergencies and global pollution. Despite the fact chemical pollution has recently crossed the planetary boundary safe for humanity and is threatening the integrity of the global ecosystem, exposure to manmade chemicals is anticipated to double and even triple in the coming decades (Persson et al, 2022). Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem, there are over 194 million chemicals on the world’s largest chemical database (CAS, 2022), and every 60 seconds another 20 chemicals are registered, most of which have never been tested for their impact on human health (Bijlsma and Cohen, 2016).
The time to act is now. So where do we start?
I’m pleased to partner with GreenPan, the pioneer of healthy ceramic non-stick cookware with Thermolon™, the first PFAS-free alternative to conventional non-stick coatings launched in the cookware market. This Earth Day we’re sharing how you can have a positive impact and be part of a global movement for our planet, starting from your kitchen.
There’s no better place to start than with a group of very nasty manmade chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). These chemicals are known for their water-resistant, stain-resistant, fire-resistant and anti-stick properties and have subsequently been used in a variety of household items since the 1940s. This includes textiles like carpets, clothes and furnishings; paints, varnishes and sealants; paper coatings and food packaging; cookware through to cleaning and personal care products. Whilst some manufacturers are phasing out specific types of PFAS (there are many!), short-chain PFAS are on the rise, and most of them are remarkably persistent (which is why they are referred to as the ‘forever chemicals’), and accumulate up the food chain and consequently have been found extensively in wildlife, animals and humans.
More worryingly, there is a growing body of research associating PFAS exposure during pregnancy with low birth weight and increased risk of obesity later in life (Gao et al, 2022), reproductive toxicity and infertility (Chambers et al, 2021), especially in males who appear to be more susceptible (Gao et al, 2022). The instance of the chemical is also associated with developmental delays in children (Lee et al, 2021), elevated risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (Sun et al, 2018), increase in the risk of some cancers (breast, prostate, kidney, testicular cancers) (Barry et al, 2013; Bonefield et al, 2011; Hardell et al, 2014), and may adversely impact the thyroid, immune, nervous system and gene expression (Ojo et al, 2021). Consequently, there are a growing number of scientists urging the World Health Organisation to change the classification of some PFAS’ like PFOA from a possible human carcinogen (IARC, 2017) to a known carcinogen.
A few simple and actionable takeaways from this story to your home for Earth Day:
PFAS is commonly detected in fast food packaging such as pizza boxes, baking paper and microwave popcorn bags (Susmann et al, 2019), as well as in contaminated drinking water and fish (especially trout). Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep take away food to a minimum and prepare meals at home from scratch. A healthy way to eat is to adopt the S.L.O.W method – buy food that is Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole (still in its natural state). In addition, increasing fibre rich foods such as whole grains, flaxseed, chia seeds, and brown rice have been found to lower PFAS in the body (Dzierlenga et al, 2021).
Cookware choices matter
Like you, I’m time poor. So, spending time scrubbing baked-on food off pots and pans whilst simultaneously attempting to home school my kids during COVID, isn’t particularly attractive to me which is why non-stick cookware is so appealing. Unfortunately, a significant majority of non-stick cookware contains PFAS and if that well-loved pot or oven cookware is in poor condition because it’s peeling, BEWARE as your exposure has likely gone through the roof!
Given the most common source of exposure to PFAS is through food, it is very important that, for the sake of your health and the health of the planet, you make sure your cookware and storage containers are PFAS-free. Using ground-breaking technology and pioneering the world’s first healthy ceramic non-stick coating made from natural materials, GreenPan non-stick cookware and kitchen appliances are free from PFAS and toxic metals like lead and cadmium.
Invest in water and air filters
As global pollution increases substantially over the next few decades, both the planet’s air and waterways will be exposed to an increasing number of pollutants. It is important, therefore, that you consider investing in an air and water filter.
Trees are the lungs of the planet and, since industrialisation, mining and global pollution, they are absorbing increasing levels of toxic metals and chemicals. As the climate becomes hotter, and bushfires become more frequent, burning trees release cancer-causing particles back into the air. During these times, it’s important to seal your home and use an air filter. The same should apply if you rely on an open fireplace to heat your home. As household dust is the major reservoir of allergens and chemicals including PFAS in the home, an air filter will go a long way to reduce your exposure. If you don’t get an air filter, your body then becomes the filter!
Tap water contains a plethora of chemicals from chlorine, aluminium, fluoride and pesticides to copper and lead, which have either been added or arise from exposure to household plumbing and tap fittings. In some locations, PFAS may be present in drinking water especially if your source of drinking or bathing water is obtained from the ground or bore water. If you don’t want to consume PFAS and other toxic chemicals, invest in a water filter.
Avoid chemicals on furnishings
As you sit at the dining table on your cushioned chairs to discuss your day with your family or housemates, it’s important to think about what chemicals are under your bum. PFAS is frequently used on soft furnishings to make them stain and water-resistant… this is not a good idea. Ask the manufacturer for the ‘Safety Data Sheet’ to look for any chemicals like PFAS used on the product before you buy.
By removing PFAS and other toxic chemicals from your kitchen, not only will you have a positive impact on the planet, but you may also even find your headaches ease, persistent allergies become manageable, you sleep better, and you enjoy new levels of vitality each day.
After all, what can be more important than your family’s health? The health and wellness possibilities are endless when you create a healthy kitchen!
American Chemical Society. (2022) . CAS Registry. https://www.cas.org/cas-data/cas-registry
Barry, V., Winquist, A., & Steenland, K. (2013). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposures and incident cancers among adults living near a chemical plant. Environmental health perspectives, 121(11-12), 1313-1318.
Bijlsma, N., & Cohen, M. M. (2016). Environmental Chemical Assessment in Clinical Practice: Unveiling the Elephant in the Room. Int J Env Research & Public Health, 13(2), 181. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13020181
Bonefeld-Jorgensen, E. C., Long, M., Bossi, R., Ayotte, P., Asmund, G., Krüger, T., … & Dewailly, E. (2011). Perfluorinated compounds are related to breast cancer risk in Greenlandic Inuit: a case control study. Environmental Health, 10(1), 1-16.
Chambers, W. S., Hopkins, J. G., & Richards, S. M. (2021). A Review of Per-and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substance Impairment of Reproduction. Frontiers in Toxicology, 3.
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Hardell, E., Kärrman, A., van Bavel, B., Bao, J., Carlberg, M., & Hardell, L. (2014). Case–control study on perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) and the risk of prostate cancer. Environment international, 63, 35-39.
IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. (2017). Some chemicals used as solvents and in polymer manufacture. https://publications.iarc.fr/Book-And-Report-Series/Iarc-Monographs-On-The-Identification-Of-Carcinogenic-Hazards-To-Humans/Some-Chemicals-Used-As-Solvents-And-In-Polymer-Manufacture-2016.
Lee YJ, Jung HW, Kim HY, Choi YJ, Lee YA. Early-Life Exposure to Per- and Poly-Fluorinated Alkyl Substances and Growth, Adiposity, and Puberty in Children: A Systematic Review. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Sep 9;12:683297. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.683297.
Linn Persson, Bethanie M. Carney Almroth, Christopher D. Collins, Sarah Cornell, Cynthia A. de Wit, Miriam L. Diamond, Peter Fantke, Martin Hassellöv, Matthew MacLeod, Morten W. Ryberg, Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, Patricia Villarrubia-Gómez, Zhanyun Wang, and Michael Zwicky Hauschild
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Sun, Q., Zong, G., Valvi, D., Nielsen, F., Coull, B., & Grandjean, P. (2018). Plasma concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective investigation among US women. Environmental health perspectives, 126(3), 037001.
Susmann, H. P., Schaider, L. A., Rodgers, K. M., & Rudel, R. A. (2019). Dietary habits related to food packaging and population exposure to PFASs. Environmental health perspectives, 127(10), 107003.