Do You Know What’s In Your Pizza Box Besides the Pepperoni Pizza You Ordered?

The next time you order pizza, beware that your pizza box may contain more than a hot, delicious large pepperoni.

PFAS, which refers to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of at least 4,700 synthetic chemicals that have been in commercial production since the 1940s to make surfaces resist stains, water and grease.

PFAS can be found in pizza boxes and widely used household items such as non-stick cookware, fire retardants, stain and water repellents, some furniture, waterproof clothes, food packaging, carpet and textiles, rubbers and plastics, electronics and some dental floss.

According to The Guardian, the most widely studied type of PFAS are perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA (also known as C8), which has been used for decades to make Teflon non-stick, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOS, which is used to make Scotchgard water repellent. These chemicals are a concern because they do not break down in the environment, can move through soils, contaminate drinking water sources, and accumulate in fish and wildlife. As a result, PFAS have been found in rivers and lakes and in many types of animals on land and in the water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found PFOA in the blood of 98% of Americans, as well as breast milk and umbilical cord blood. PFAS also have been found in the drinking water of about 16 million Americans, including 126 military bases, where PFAS-rich firefighting foam is used for training exercises. PFAS have also turned up in fish, shellfish and vegetables growing in contaminated soil and water. The Environmental Working Group health advocates have created a map of detections of PFAS in water in the United States.

Exposure to PFAS comes mainly from drinking contaminated water, eating food packaged in certain materials and using products embedded with PFAS.

Exposure to PFAS and Birth Defects

A growing body of evidence has linked PFAS exposure to developmental issues. In a study published in Environment International, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden showed how PFAS industrial chemicals pass through the placenta throughout pregnancy to accumulate in fetal tissue.

The accumulation of PFAS in maternal tissue is associated with serious health problems and the risk of premature illness later in life. Evidence shows that prolonged exposure to PFAS can affect a baby’s well-being over time by causing changes in early development that can manifest later in childhood and adulthood, such as learning and cognitive disabilities, behavioral problems, and other neurologic disorders.

Numerous studies on PFOS and PFOA on both humans and animals have shown a wide range of possible health effects, including decreased fertility among women, decreased sperm count and penis size, lowered birth weight, cancer and among animals studied, death. The accumulation of polyfluoroalkyl compounds in maternal tissue, such as the placenta, umbilical cord blood, and mammary glands, is associated with serious health problems and the risk of premature illness later in life.

PFAS exposure also has been linked to cancer, liver damage, immune system disruption, resistance to vaccines, thyroid disease, impaired fertility and high cholesterol. A study funded by DuPont as part of a legal settlement with residents living near one of its Teflon facilities found that PFOA was probably linked to six disease outcomes: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Experts recommend that people avoid non-stick cookware, Gore-Tex fabric and clothing made with pre-2000 Scotchgard, and personal care products containing PTFE or flouro ingredients. When in doubt, ask manufacturers if their products contain PFAS since they may not be labeled. Also, watch for local fish advisories and don’t eat contaminated catches.

PFOS and PFOA have been largely phased out of use in the U.S. under a 2006 voluntary agreement brokered by the EPA with eight major companies, including DuPont. However, these substances are still circulating in the country via imports.

Amid growing public concern, the EPA issued two actions in February 2021 to protect public health by addressing PFAS in drinking water. The agency reproposed the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) to collect new data on PFAS in drinking water. Also, it reissued final regulatory determinations for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA also is creating a new “EPA Council on PFAS” that is charged with building on the agency’s ongoing work to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by these chemicals.

How We Help Victims of Toxic Exposure

The attorneys of our birth defects victims alliance understand the pain that families face when coping with life-altering birth defects—and the frustration of knowing they could have been prevented. Our team has over 30 years of combined experience in birth defects litigation in cases involving toxic exposure. We have the resources and experience to fight on behalf of our clients against corporations that put them in danger. Contact us to see how we can help you and your family receive justice for birth defects.