The Dangers of PFOA

Common household items may be harming your health. Perfluorooctanoic acid is part of a number of manufacturing processes and is a big part of the production of many things. Although PFOA is not found in the environment—it is a synthetic chemical that only exists in manufactured products—an estimated 98 percent of adults have some PFOA in their systems.

This is concerning because there are some adverse health effects attributed to PFOA. It is associated with high cholesterol, and people with high levels of PFOA are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Although most people have only trace amounts in their blood, it does stay for a long time in both the environment and the human body.

PFOA is found in a number of products, either directly or as manufacturing residue:

  • Pre-treated carpeting and treated clothes and outerwear
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Upholstery and home textiles treated to be stain-resistant
  • Floor wax and wax remover
  • Tile and wood sealants
  • Dental floss
  • Non-stick cookware

It’s not clear how PFOA gets into the body from the environment, though some applications are used on or in the body, such as dental floss. The Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring PFOA levels in water, from industrial runoff; manufacturers are taking more precautions to prevent contaminating water with PFOA but because it lasts indefinitely, decades-old runoff may still be lurking in some places.

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