RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the fourth edition of its National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, a comprehensive measurement of the chemical exposure we face every day. CDC scientists used blood serum and urine samples from about 2,500 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and tested those samples for a variety of chemicals, ranging from pesticides to chemical flame retardants in furniture to industrial contaminants. Many of the 212 chemicals for which they tested were found in nearly all people tested.
Here are some of the most notable chemicals we're all being exposed to, and how you can avoid them to protect your health:
#1: PFOA. Short for perfluorooctanoic acid, PFOA is a chemical used to manufacture nonstick cookware and to treat fabrics and food wrappers to keep them stain-repellent. Levels of PFOA found in drinking water have been linked to high cholesterol and both male and female infertility, and it was detected in all the blood sampled by the CDC.
How to avoid it: A Canadian study found that people's greatest exposure to PFOA is not from nonstick pans but from greasy fast-food wrappers, with egg breakfast sandwiches having the highest levels. PFOA can also be produced if you overheat nonstick pans, so watch your nonstick cookware, and never leave pans on the stove unattended. Replace them with safer stainless steel, cast iron, or glass when they start to wear out.
#2: Acrylamide A by-product of tobacco smoke, acrylamide is more likely to sneak into your house via your baked potatoes or french fries if you're a nonsmoker. It's formed when starchy foods are fried, baked, or roasted at extremely high temperatures, and because it's common in grains and can build up in the animals that eat grain, it's sometimes found in dairy products, fish, or poultry. The World Health Organization has classified it as a probable human carcinogen. Acrylamide was detected in U.S. food as recently as 2002, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't started widely testing products for its presence.