WHAT IT MEANS
We're just beginning to understand the sometimes-subtle effects of these ever-present chemicals. "PFCs are so prevalent," Gump says. "There's so little research about what the effects of these are on cognitive function, yet everyone has them in their blood." And he adds that the levels of PFCs found in the children in his study are not unusual, based on blood tests conducted on the general public by the CDC. Because these chemicals are so ubiquitous, he wasn't able to determine whether children were being affected by PFCs in their current environment or had been exposed to high levels prenatally. Prenatal exposure, he writes in his study, might explain why these children, born in the late 1990s, when PFC use peaked, are more likely to show signs of ADHD.
A 2008 study has shown that, as with many of the other persistent chemicals that build up in our environment (such as pesticides), contaminated food and water are our primary exposure sources for PFCs. The next-highest source is spray-on water- and stain-repelling clothing treatments and carpet treatments, such as Scotchgard. Third in that list is food packaging: Microwave popcorn, fast-food wrappers, butter wrappers, and pizza boxes may contain PFC-based coatings to prevent grease from soaking through the paper, giving you one more reason not to eat fast food!
Here are a few more ways to avoid exposure to PFCs:
• Eat super-green fish. Researchers are just beginning to understand where the PFCs in our food come from, but it's widely accepted that contaminated fish are a big source of exposure. Choose healthy fish that have low levels of all contaminants to avoid exposure to these unhealthy chemicals.
• Learn to cope with stains. Carpet treatments and after-market stain repellents that we spray on our clothes and furniture could lead to hyperactive kids, as well as moms and dads with thyroid problems. Follow our tips for cleaning clothing and removing carpet stains without resorting to toxic stain-repellent sprays. Also, consult Rodale's Nontoxic Back-to-School Shopping Guide e-book for ideas on outfitting children with rain gear and umbrellas that aren't coated in PFC-based water-repellent coatings.
• Choose healthy cookware. Nonstick pans aren't thought to be a major source of PFC exposure when new, but as the cookware ages and the coatings start to wear off, you might wind up adding PFCs to your dinner without realizing it. Choose healthy cookware that's free of nonstick coatings when replacing your old pots and pans; you might even find it functions better in the kitchen.