Published May 12, 2013
Oh, great. Just when you were starting to get a handle on your BPA exposure, scientists uncover a new one you should worry about.
It’s called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—a chemical found in things like nonstick cookware, food wrappers, furniture, and even raincoats—and it’s been linked to cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.
The kicker? A full 98 percent of us have PFOA in our bloodstreams. (Protect your body’s most important muscle with these tips to Strengthen Your Heart in 30 Days.)
Researchers from West Virginia University (WVU) School of Public Health, Morgantown, looked at the health data of 1,200 Americans and compared their PFOA serum levels with the incidence of heart disease. The results: The greater the amounts of PFOA in the bloodstream, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease—regardless of factors like age, race, smoking, BMI, diabetes, and even hypertension. While previous research has linked PFOA to cardiovascular disease in animals, this is the first to look at PFOA’s heart effect on humans.
Scary? You bet. But more research needs to be done to determine the specific relationship between PFOA and cardiovascular disease.
“We can’t yet be certain that PFOA causes heart disease,” says lead study author Dr. Anoop Shankar, chair of the department of epidemiology in the WVU School of Public Health. “The two could be related in another way, like people with cardiovascular disease tending to retain more PFOA in their blood.” (Minimize your exposure to harsh chemicals with these 19 Bizarre Home Remedies That Really Work.)
Still, PFOA’s track record isn’t exactly reassuring. Health watchdogs like the Environmental Working Group—which annually puts out the Dirty Dozen Foods You Should Eat Organic—cite research that suggests PFOA may be a human carcinogen, and previous research has linked the chemical to chronic kidney disease and high cholesterol in children and adolescents. It’s also a significant source of global chemical emissions—so much so that the EPA partnered with major manufacturers like DuPont and 3M to form the 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, which plans to eliminate PFOAs from the manufacturers’ products by 2015.
Until then, you can minimize your exposure to the chemical by steering clear of two of the biggest sources: nonstick cookware and packaged foods like microwave popcorn. According to the FDA, many popcorn bags contain especially high levels of PFOAs. (Popcorn addict? Avoid chemicals, calories, and sodium with these tips to prepare the perfect bowl of popcorn at home.)