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There are many products we use on a regular basis that seem to almost work magic, whether it’s stain-resistant carpet and upholstery, waterproof jackets, or the way some of our cookware keeps food from sticking to its surface. But have you ever stopped to think about how these little tricks and modern conveniences occur? In May 2015, more than 200 scientists and health and safety professionals from all over the world came out with a call to education and action that is now known as “The Madrid Statement.” Their goal was to provide a warning about a harmful group of commonly-used chemicals – polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFASs or highly fluorinated chemicals – that cause serious harm not only to the environment, but also human health.

One of the most dangerous qualities of these manmade chemicals – found in common food items such as nonstick pans, wax paper, and pizza boxes – is that PFASs are resistant to breakdown in the environment. Because these chemicals are made up of ultra strong carbon-fluorine bonds, they can take millions of years to disintegrate.

The damage and risks to health associated with PFASs were identified as long as a decade ago; it was then that the EPA first began working to phase them out of production processes. Multiple studies have shown connections between PFASs and cancer, liver malfunction, hormonal changes, obesity, low birth size and thyroid issues. Research has found no safe levels in animal studies and build up of these chemicals within the human body. A Danish study conducted last year found up to a sixteenfold increase in the risk of miscarriage among pregnant women associated with PFAS exposure.

The Madrid Statement authors urged governments and industry manufacturers to conduct more testing and research related to the toxicity, production, and disposal methods of PFASs. While the outlook is grim, there are companies currently working to find safer alternatives, including the use of biomimicry (in this case, imitating the way water beads up and runs off of leaves). Until there’s widespread collaboration in halting the use of these chemicals or using alternatives, however, it’s best to follow the advice of The Madrid Statement scientists and “whenever possible, avoid products containing, or manufactured using, PFASs. These include many products that are stain-resistant, waterproof, or nonstick.”

Additional source: Scientists Issue Warning Over Chemicals Common In Carpets, Coats, Cookware

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