Goodbye Forever Chemicals: My Journey to a Healthier Home

Last Updated: June 8, 2024By

Goodbye Forever Chemicals: My Journey to a Healthier Home

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I’m making a tomato sauce in my trusty old pan when it starts to bubble and splatter all over the kitchen counter. I grab a spray cleaner and wipe it up with a damp cloth before chopping some veggies on the same spot. It’s a routine I’ve done countless times, but this time, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something invisible and harmful in every step of this process. These so-called “forever chemicals” might be leaching into my food, and eventually, into my body—from my worn-out nonstick pan, the cleaner, and even the tap water.

A Hidden Danger in Everyday Life

I learned about these chemicals, known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), as I began an experiment to eliminate them from my life. The challenge? They are practically everywhere. From food packaging and toiletries to nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing, these chemicals are hard to avoid. They’re even found in strawberries, cucumbers, coffee cups, and sandwich bags! The nickname “forever chemicals” comes from their persistence in the environment—they don’t easily break down.

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Natasha Kitching, from the environmental charity Fidra, explains, “PFAS leak into our environment during production, use, and disposal, and now contaminate our blood, water, air, and food.”

Why We Should Care About PFAS

At first, I dismissed concerns about PFAS as just another scare story. But the evidence is compelling. PFAS have been found in Arctic ice and in the blood of polar bears! They are linked to serious health issues like birth defects, liver damage, reduced immunity, and cancer. While some harmful PFAS have been banned, many are still untested and new ones are continually being created. These chemicals build up in our bodies over time and take years to be eliminated.

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As a mom to a two-year-old, I’m particularly concerned. PFAS can affect children’s developing endocrine systems and reduce vaccine efficacy. I decided to try and rid my home of these chemicals, but it’s not easy. PFAS are in dust, TVs, and even food.

Starting in the Kitchen

Nonstick cookware is a common source of PFAS. Labels can be misleading; you need cookware labeled “PFAS-free.” I replaced my old pans with ones from GreenPan and found them to be great—they didn’t need much oil, and cleanup was a breeze. No more greasy paper, which is often coated with PFAS!

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While researching, I kept seeing ads for the Our Place Always Pan, another PFAS-free option. Although some reviews mention that ceramic coatings can wear out, I was impressed with how well my new pans performed.

Food Worries

PFAS are in many foods, with strawberries being the worst offenders. While I can’t completely avoid fruit and veggies, I decided to wash them thoroughly and cut back on strawberries. Seafood and takeout are also concerns, as PFAS are in packaging and fish. I decided to skip fish and avoid takeout for now.

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Filtering Water

Testing shows that most UK water companies have some PFAS in their water. Even boiling doesn’t eliminate PFAS, so I got a ZeroWater filter, which claims to remove 94.9% of PFAS. It’s an extra step, but I feel it’s worth it.

Cleaning with Care

I spray my counters multiple times a day, and many cleaners contain PFAS. I switched to PFAS-free brands like Smol and Purdy & Figg. Smol’s surface spray works well even if I sometimes forget to use filtered water. Purdy & Figg’s essential oil cleaner smells nice but seems no more effective than water.

Clothing Choices

Waterproof and stain-resistant clothes often contain PFAS. Many big brands are moving away from PFAS, and I found that my daughter’s waterproofs and my gym gear were already PFAS-free. However, it’s a relief to know that opting for natural fibers like wool can help reduce exposure.

The Makeup Mystery

PFAS make cosmetics more effective, but I found it hard to identify which products are PFAS-free. Some brands don’t list ingredients, so I emailed them, but responses were scarce. H&M offers PFAS-free makeup, which worked well for me at a recent wedding.

Final Thoughts

Despite my efforts, it’s impossible to avoid PFAS completely. They’re in the dust, tap water, and so many products. But as Kitching says, “Reducing exposure in the things you can control is a great step.”

This experiment showed me how pervasive and persistent PFAS are. While it shouldn’t be solely up to individuals, being mindful and making small changes can help. I’ll keep using my new pans and PFAS-free products but won’t stress over every little exposure. Some things, like strawberries and unfiltered water, are just too hard to give up completely.

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