A recent study by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), which analysed the blood and urine of members of the public, revealed undesirable levels of chemical compounds, in particular perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a substance banned since 2010 in Switzerland.
PFOA exposure has been associated with two kinds of cancer as well as four other diseases. PFOA is a possible carcinogen, a possible liver toxicant, a possible developmental toxicant, and a possible immune system toxicant. It could also affect thyroid hormone levels at very high concentrations.
PFOA can be found in industrial waste, stain-resistant carpets, carpet-cleaning liquids, house dust, microwave popcorn bags, water, food, Teflon products and some fabrics used in waterproof clothing.
A key problem with the substance is its persistence. This means it can travel and remain in the environment for a long period of time. It can be found in house dust, water, food and the atmosphere. As a result PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population. The FOPH study shows how persistent the compound is. It is still present in Switzerland’s population more than a decade after it was banned.
The recent Swiss study found 3.6% of participants were exposed to concentrations exceeding the threshold value set by health experts. The study sampled the blood and urine of 789 healthy people.
The companies 3M and Dupont were heavily involved in the manufacture of products including the substance, which was introduced commercially in 1947.
To limit exposure to the substance it is worth looking for products that may contain the substance in your home. Old teflon pans and cooking utensils are a common source of PFOA contamination. Microwavable popcorn packaged in plastic is another problematic product.