Perfluorochemicals or PFCs—the family of fluorine-containing chemicals used to make nonstick cookware and stain-resistant clothing (think Teflon, Gore-Tex, Stainmaster and Scotchgard)—have been a cause for concern for years now. PFCs don’t degrade in the environment, build up in human bodies and have been linked to health problems such as suppressed immune systems, abnormal hormone function and developmental problems in children. Now researchers have linked PFC exposure to early menopause, which is a cause for concern as low levels of estrogen can put women at risk for heart disease and osteoporosis.
All nonstick cookware is coated in a covering containing perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA), which, when overheated, can release toxic gases. Replace all nonstick cookware with stainless steel or cast iron to avoid PFOAs and other PFCs.
For the study, published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers tested and surveyed 26,000 women in West Virginia who lived near—and drank water contaminated with PFCs from—a DuPont factory from 2005 to 2006. Although area residents had extremely high levels of PFOAs, the chemical associated with DuPont’s nonstick cookware, in their blood, most residents had average levels of PFOS, another PFC, comparable to those found in the rest of the American public, making the findings relevant to a larger audience.
The researchers found that women in the study between the ages of 42 and 51 who were in the top 20 percent for PFOS levels were 40 percent more likely to have already gone through menopause than those in the bottom 20 percent. The researchers also discovered that as estrogen levels declined, PFOS levels increased.
To decrease your exposure to PFCs, avoid nonstick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics (don’t forget about furniture and carpeting!), pop your popcorn on the stove and never put food in grease-resistant to-go containers.