The human body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Water forms the basis of blood, digestive juices, urine, and perspiration, and is contained in lean muscle, fat, and bones. At Casa Natal, we emphasize the importance of hydration during all stages of your journey, whether it’s in your pregnancy, labor or postpartum stage. However, it’s not just about the quantity of water consumed; the quality and safety of our water supply are equally crucial.
Today, we’re taking a herculean task: diving into the world of “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Although the name may seem alarming, we believe that education and knowledge empower us to navigate and make informed decisions. In this blog, we’ll guide you through simple yet effective ways to safeguard yourself and your baby from potential exposure to these substances.
What are PFAS?
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are human-made chemicals widely used in various everyday products like nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and even dental floss. They are known for their resistance to heat, water, and grease, making them popular in a range of consumer goods for over 70 years.
The problem with PFAS is that they don’t easily break down, which means they can persist in the environment for a long time. They find their way into water, air, and soil through waste from manufacturing plants, firefighting foam, and the disposal of consumer products. The most common way humans are exposed is by consuming contaminated water or food. Of particular concern is the potential exposure of infants during pregnancy or through breast milk.
How Does PFAS Exposure Affect Pregnancy?
These human-made chemicals can be found in various everyday items and may stick around in our environment for a long time. Research suggests that these chemicals could have potential health impacts, especially for pregnant women.
Health concerns may include issues like increased obesity rates, thyroid problems, and abnormal liver tests. Some studies have also linked PFAS exposure to an increased risk of preeclampsia and low birth weight. However, it’s crucial to note that our understanding of how PFAS affects human health is still evolving, and further research is needed to establish causality.
Studies conducted on specific communities have shown a probable link between certain PFAS and health outcomes such as increased cholesterol levels, ulcerative colitis, and certain types of cancers. Additionally, findings indicate a higher likelihood of preeclampsia among those with significant PFAS exposure levels.
While researchers are still learning more about the broader impact of PFAS, it’s clear that these substances, whether long or short in their chemical structure, have the potential to disrupt the body’s reproductive and endocrine functions. So it’s crucial to stay informed about the potential risks they may pose.
How To Reduce PFAS Exposure?
Reducing exposure to PFAS doesn’t have to be complicated. Small changes in your everyday habits can make a big difference:
- Consider replacing any old nonstick cookware with safer options like stainless steel or cast iron. Cook at lower temperatures and wash dishes by hand to minimize the breakdown of PFAS in the coating.
- Be mindful of grease resistant fast food packaging, which often contains PFAS. Limit your intake of fast food, or use your own containers for takeout. Try making stovetop popcorn instead of using the microwave kind that contains PFAS on the inside of the bag.
- Drinking water is one of the most common sources of PFAS. Investing in a certified water filtration system can help reduce PFAS levels.
- If you have carpets or upholstery, consider replacing any older, frayed pieces, especially if you have children at home.
- Regular vacuuming and dusting with wet cloths can also help decrease PFAS concentrations in your living space.
By making simple changes like these, you can minimize your exposure and promote a healthier environment for you and your loved ones.
How Do We Keep Our Drinking Water Safe?
Maintaining safe drinking water is essential, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. Here are some tips to help you navigate this:
If your tap water exceeds the recommended levels, it’s best to use a water filtration system. If this is unavailable, use bottled water. Be mindful that not all bottled water is tested for PFAS, so look for reliable brands that adhere to strict testing standards.
Boiling water doesn’t remove PFAS, and not all water filters are designed to tackle these chemicals. If you’re breastfeeding, know that the benefits of breastmilk outweigh the risks of PFAS exposure. Breast milk typically contains minimal PFAS levels compared to adult serum levels.
As long as routine prenatal screenings for conditions like preeclampsia are ongoing, there’s no need to adjust obstetric clinical care based on PFAS notifications.
In the end, our aim is to equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed choices without unnecessary worry. Understanding the importance of clean and safe drinking water empowers you to prioritize your health and well-being.
At Casa Natal, our commitment to Functional and Integrative Medicine enables us to guide you on this journey, providing the support and resources you need to ensure your safety. Below, you’ll find some recommended sources to delve deeper into this topic.
Remember, we’re always here to chat, whether over a call or in person, to address any concerns or questions you may have about the impact of forever chemicals. Stay informed, stay empowered!
- Environmental Working Group. (2022, September). Pregnant by PFAS: The Threat of Forever Chemicals in Cord Blood. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/2022/09/pregnant-pfas-threat-forever-chemicals-cord-blood
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Pregnant Women, Babies at Risk from Everyday Chemicals. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/pregnant-women-babies-at-risk-from-everyday-chemicals/
- Szilagyi, J. T., Avula, V., & Fry, R. C. (2020). Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Their Effects on the Placenta, Pregnancy, and Child Development: a Potential Mechanistic Role for Placental Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors (PPARs). Current Environmental Health Reports, 7(3), 222–230. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-020-00279-0
- Health and Environment Alliance. (2021, May 20). How PFAS Chemicals Affect Women, Pregnancy, and Human Development. Retrieved from https://www.env-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/FIGO-PFAS-Fact-Sheet-FINAL-5.20.2021.pdff