There are a number of cancer-causing chemicals which lodge themselves deep inside your body’s tissues, resisting even the most powerful detoxification efforts to remove them. No one knows this better than firefighters who are exposed to some of the worst of these, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), while battling fires.
Now, researchers say they’ve found a relatively easy way to lower levels of these PFAS in the body. It’s a boon for the firefighters and for the rest of us…
The question researchers attempted to answer was whether they could safely reduce levels of PFAS in the blood. The researchers theorized that blood donation might help reduce blood levels of these toxic chemicals.
They performed a randomized clinical trial of 285 firefighters, including current or former fire rescue staff or contractors, who tested for high levels of the PFAS chemical perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These firefighters had serum PFOS levels of 5ng/mL or more.
These firefighters had not donated blood in the previous three months and were asked to donate blood.
In the study, firefighters with baseline PFOS and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) levels of 5ng/mL were randomly assigned to donate blood plasma every six weeks for 12 months, or donate blood every 12 weeks for 12 months, or be observed only.
At the end of the 12-month trial, researchers measured for changes in serum PFOS and PFHxS in the three groups.
Of all groups, the plasma donation group saw the best results overall.
Blood plasma donation lowered levels of
blood toxins 30 percent
Analysis between groups showed that plasma donation had a larger treatment effect than blood donation, and both of those fared better than the observation group.
In fact, the results showed a ten percent decrease in PFAS levels for the blood donation group and triple that, a whopping 30 percent reduction for the plasma donation group.
Why is this important?
PFAS are everywhere
PFAS persist in the environment and accumulate in the human body where they’re very hard to get rid of.
Common exposures include nonstick products and clothing such as Teflon, stain- and water-resistant materials, paints, firefighting foams, and more.
PFAS and PFOS chemicals are used in everything from stain- and grease-resistant products to clothing, carpet, food packaging, and non-stick cookware.
They’re also found in cosmetics. PFAS travel easily in water and don’t readily break down. So, you might have exposure via drinking water from public or private water systems.
You may also become exposed through fish or animals that harbor the chemicals in their bodies.
And, believe it or not, even your “eco” garden may pose a risk. A study showed that of nine brands of fertilizer marketed as “eco” or “natural,” eight had higher levels of PFAS chemicals than those recognized as safe.
Previous studies show that firefighters have higher PFAS levels in their blood than the general population. Firefighters have historically high levels of these substances, due to firefighting foams that contain high levels of PFAS.
These substances persist in the environment and accumulate in human tissue.
PFAS are “forever” chemicals
and cause health problems
Unfortunately, growing research shows that health risks can occur even at very low levels. Some of that evidence comes from a group of small, rocky islands between Iceland and Norway in a place called the Faroe Islands…
Where studies showed that these compounds were obstructing the immune system. Among other indications, children with higher blood levels of PFAS have more infections. Not exactly a problem you can ignore.
As if that weren’t enough, research has found that PFAS chemicals can be passed from one person to another via a blood transfusion.
Another study of 50 breastfeeding moms in Seattle found that PFAS chemicals were present in 100 percent of breast milk samples.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified PFOS as a Group 2B (possible) carcinogen for kidney and testicular cancers. Other effects include low fetal weight, immune system problems, thyroid abnormalities, obesity, higher lipid levels, liver function changes, and potentially an increase in cancer.
Still, calculating PFAS exposure isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are nearly 5,000 compounds in this class. Some are more toxic than others. And others have been replaced with equally as dangerous products that are less widely known, less well-studied, and often presumed safe.
So, having a safe way to remove them is critical.
Why does blood plasma donation
work to remove them?
PFOS bind to serum proteins in the blood. That’s why it was hypothesized that blood removal might reduce PFAS levels in the blood.
Studies have revealed lower PFAS levels in patients who undergo regular blood donations.
In addition, premenopausal women have lower PFAS levels than men, perhaps due to the regular loss of blood through their monthly menstrual cycle.
Important ways to reduce your exposure
It’s nearly impossible to avoid all PFAS products. But don’t throw up your hands. There’s much you can do the reduce your toxic load of PFAS.
Ask manufacturers if their products contain PFAS. You won’t likely see them on the labels. So, by asking, you put them on notice that you’re watching them.
Avoid non-stick pans, Gore-Tex (and other stain-resistant) clothing, and personal care products with “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients, as well as fabrics made with pre-2000 formulations of Scotchgard.
And beware… many pans that claim to be “green” or claim to be free of PDAS chemicals contain other dangerous chemicals, such as BPA, PTFE, and PFOS.
If you don’t need truly “waterproof” products, look for items labeled “water resistant.” They are much less likely to be treated with PFAS.
Cook more foods at home. Grease-proof food packaging like the wrappers at fast food restaurants, or microwave popcorn bags, often contain PFAS. The best way to avoid them is to cook more meals at home, and to look for restaurant chains and grocery stores that have commitments to removing PFAS from their food packaging.
As much as possible, avoid stain- or water-resistant carpeting and upholstery.
Make your popcorn on the stovetop instead of in PFAS-treated microwave bags.
Try to avoid cosmetics that contain “fluorine” or “fluoro” on the label, as that means they may contain PFAS.
Purchase a water filtration system to remove some of the PFAS from your home’s water. All types of under-the-sink dual-stage and reverse osmosis filters were found to remove over 90% of the PFAS chemicals in the water. Rely on purified water to maintain your wellness.
Bear in mind that when you avoid PFAS products, you not only reduce your own exposure, but you also reduce the amount of PFAS in factories, their neighboring communities, and the environment. It matters more than you may think.
Give blood if your health allows. It works for the firefighters to rid their bodies of PFAS, and it will work for you, too.
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