If you’ve tuned into the media lately, there’s one buzzy term that’s making the rounds: PFAS (also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The headlines read: Forever Chemicals Are Everywhere and The Sneaky Chemicals In Your Sparkling Water. The news that we’re unknowingly consuming immeasurable amounts of toxic PFAs on a daily basis is, no doubt, alarming. Especially true since PFAS have been linked to a host of serious health issues from liver damage, weakened immune systems, and fertility issues – just to name a few.
“Virtually everyone has traces of PFA-related chemicals in their body,” explains Michael Long, Master Water Specialist on the Water and Wellness team. In fact, according to a peer-reviewed 2020 study as many as 200 million Americans are exposed to PFAS in their tap water, with another study stating that the chemicals have been present in the blood of 98% of Americans. “They are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because of the incredibly long time it takes for them to break down,” explains Long. Contaminated water has been a growing cause for concern and just this last week a whopping $1B settlement was reached between three major chemical companies (Chemours, DuPont and Corteva) and public water in regard to toxic drinking water across the United States.
Unfortunately, in this day and age it’s impossible to escape exposure completely. “Simply drinking straight out of your sink, and even showering or brushing your teeth with unfiltered tap water can put you at risk for side effects over time,” says Leah Haloi, a Holistic Health Practitioner + Nutritionist (HHP + NTP) based in San Diego. Note that The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a legal limit on PFA contamination yet, but has established voluntary limits (scientists from Consumer Reports recommend a limit on PFAS of 5 parts per trillion (ppt), when the voluntary limit set by the EPA is 70 ppt). “1 ppt is the same as one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” says Haloi for perspective.
It may surprise you to know that PFAs aren’t just in tap water. Studies show some bottled waters, including sparkling water, are deemed dangerous. A recent study by Consumer Reports found that popular sparkling water brands like Topo Chico, Canada Dry, Perrier, La Croix, and many more contain unsafe amounts of the toxin. (Alternately, according to the same study, some of the best brands that have tested free of PFAS are: Arrowhead, Berkshire Springs and Blizzard, Boxed Water is Better, Crystal Geyser, Poland Springs, and Trader Joe’s.)
These man-made chemicals have been around for decades and were originally manufactured for their nonstick and stain-resistant properties. They’ve been used for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes; you can find them in tons of everyday items from packaged foods, cookware, furniture, outdoor apparel, etc. The toxins are categorized as a large and diverse family of over 4,000 compounds made to resist water and grease. These substances vary in their chemical makeup, but tend to remain unchanged in the body for long periods of time and can stick around for centuries without biodegrading. In fact, “it takes nearly four years for the level in the body to go down by half.” (PFAS leave the body mainly through urine, adds Long.)
Currently, there are no definitive medical procedures that can clear PFAS from the body “The best step you can take is to remove the source of the exposure from your environment,” says Long. While you can’t completely avoid PFAS all together, you can be proactive and take measures to try and reduce your exposure and overall risk – especially when it comes to your water intake.
We tapped three experts for their insights on the ever-growing topic for the best ways you can be vigilant about your PFA consumption.
Invest In a Water Filter
“To immediately remove PFAS from drinking water, using an effective filter or filtration system is the best option,” confirms Haloi. This is especially critical if you live in an area where PFAS contamination is known or suspected. “People who live in more populated areas are at increased risk because the water is more polluted,” adds Haloi. This filtration process is referred to as Reverse Osmosis. It uses pressure to push unfiltered water through a semipermeable membrane (think of a filter with little pores) which separates clean drinking water from contaminants like PFAS and other harmful substances.
But not all filtration systems are created equal. Dr. Angela Pogioli, DC, Water and Wellness’s Clinical Director says “when assessing any water purification unit that makes “claims” regarding contaminant removal, a few things must be kept in mind.” The lab testing must be done by one of three recognized organizations: NSF International, IAPMO, and WQA Gold Seal. Be cautious of those results that say, “tested according to NSF standards,” that’s how labs get away with fooling the public. “These labs often use tricky tactics like using low pH water (in the case of fluoride removal) or even testing using low volumes of water,” explains Dr. Pogioli. Her top pick: Aqua Tru Reverse Osmosis purifier. The brand offers a variety of 4-Stage Reverse Osmosis purifiers that range from easy countertop options to under-sink systems that can be installed.
Haloi recommends the Pristine Hydro under-counter revival system. “It has a 10-stage filtration process that includes re-mineralizing your water, making it the closest to fresh spring water you can get,” explains the pro. For a budget friendly option, try the Clearly Filtered Pitcher. “If you can’t get a whole house reverse osmosis filtration system that includes your sinks and shower, any filter is better than nothing,” says Haloi. For your shower, she points to the Jolie shower head filter. ‘It uses a high purity combination of zinc and copper.” Live Pristine works comparatively, and for a sink option Haloi is a fan of Filter Baby.
Pro tip: Since filtering strips water of essential nutrients and electrolytes, it’s important that you re-mineralize the water before drinking it. Try Apricō’s Hydrate + Replenish sachets. Each liquid seawater sachet is chock-full of over 78 minerals and trace elements derived directly from protected phytoplankton blooms, supporting electrolyte balance, hydration levels, immune function, optimal cellular function, and detoxification.
Consider These Daily Detox Practices
Incorporating detoxing into your lifestyle can also help curtail your toxin load. And it doesn’t have to be extreme. “It’s so important to support our bodies’ natural detoxification processes on a daily basis,” says Haloi. She suggests little changes like drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning. “This helps support the liver to do what it does best, filter out toxins,” adds the pro.
The nutritionist also suggests daily support by rotating in herbs. “Apricō’s Detox + Cleanse Drops use two of my favorites: milk thistle and dandelion, which are great supports for the liver to move toxins out of the body.” This is also a liposomal formula, which is easier for the body to absorb, so it’s highly bioavailable and effective. You can pair it with the Activated Toxin Binder to help reduce toxins from sticking around in the body. “It’s a great duo for an occasional detox or during times when you’re feeling sluggish, maybe after the holidays or a vacation,” she adds.
A Note on Toxin Binders
When detoxing it’s also really important to help prevent unwanted detox reactions and side effects, which can make you feel sick or cause flu-like symptoms. “To halt this the use of a toxin binder is key,” says Haloi. Just be sure to take your binder away from food and other supplementation as binders will attach to more than just toxins. Also, using a combination of binders is important. Binders (like charcoal) have special affinities to specific toxins. If you want to make sure you’re eliminating a variety of toxins from the body, a combination of binders will do the trick. Activated Toxin Binder is a blend of four unique and natural binding agents to support a more complete detoxification experience.
Detox A Few Times a Year
The nutritionist also recommends an annual detox, which can be beneficial once, or even twice a year, depending on your exposure and needs. “If you’re doing a full detox, gentle is always best to limit a die-off reaction and create sustainability.” An effective detox can look like eliminating inflammatory foods like processed sugars, gluten, soy, and corn while bringing in a nourishing variety of cooked veggies, warm broths, whole non-tropical fruits, and digestive supports. Additionally, common supplements that can support detoxification can include digestive enzymes, stomach acid support like betaine HCL, motility supplements or foods like Beet Kvass or Aloe Vera juice.
It’s important to note that everyone’s needs and goals are different so be sure to check with your healthcare provider before incorporating any new digestive supplements or protocols.
Lastly, you can also check what contaminants are in your local tap drinking water by plugging your zip code into the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database or by contacting your local health department.
Scientists are still studying the long-term effects of PFAs and much is still to be learned. “As scary as “forever chemicals” may sound, we do have options to limit our exposure and reduce overall risk,” notes Haloi.