PFAS and Immunity: Forever Chemicals Can Impact Vaccine Efficacy

PFAS chemicals are lurking everywhere - from non-stick pans to waterproof jackets. But these convenient compounds come with a heavy cost, disrupting our immune systems and reducing vaccine effectiveness. Read on to learn how to minimize your PFAS exposure and protect your immunity.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are human-made chemicals commonly found in everyday items like nonstick pans and waterproof jackets.

These chemicals, unfortunately, pose significant health risks, particularly to our immune systems. In fact, new research reveals the concerning effects of PFAS on immunity and vaccine response. Million Marker’s Vice President of Research Carol Kwiatkowski collaborated with experts to publish a commentary explaining the importance of these startling findings. Let's dive into some of the eye-opening discoveries. Plus, we’ll discuss some ways you can protect yourself from PFAS and immune system dysregulation. 

What Are PFAS and Where Are They Found?

Diamonds are forever…so are PFAS. Thousands of different types of PFAS have been extensively used in various everyday products due to their unique properties. They’re commonly used by manufacturers because they can resist water, grease, and stains.

PFAS are commonly used in:

  • Nonstick cookware (e.g., Teflon-coated pans)
  • Stain-resistant fabrics (e.g., water-repellent clothing)
  • Food packaging (e.g., microwave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers)
  • Waterproofing sprays and treatments for clothing and shoes
  • Cleaning products (e.g., carpet cleaners, fabric protectors)
  • Cosmetics (e.g., waterproof makeup)
  • Firefighting foams (used in extinguishing fuel-based fires)
  • Outdoor gear (e.g., tents, outdoor furniture)
  • Ski wax
  • Dental floss

We say, resist PFAS, not water or stains! Unfortunately, the widespread use of PFAS has led to their presence in the air, water, soil, and even our bodies, raising concerns about their potential health impacts.

PFAS and the Immune System

Recent research has shed light on how PFAS can impact our immune system. PFOA and PFOS are commonly used PFAS chemicals that have been found to disrupt our body's immune function.

When our immune function is disrupted, it can impact our body's ability to fight off illnesses and infections effectively. A weakened immune system may struggle to recognize and combat harmful invaders like bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, leaving us more vulnerable to getting sick. 

Additionally, disruptions in immune function can hinder the body's response to vaccines, making it harder to build immunity against diseases. Maintaining a healthy immune system is vital for staying well and protecting ourselves from various health threats.

PFAS not only interfere with vaccine effectiveness by diminishing antibody responses but also weaken our overall immune system. Therefore, PFAS makes it more challenging to combat illnesses like colds and COVID-19. 

As we continue to uncover the effects of PFAS exposure on our immune health, it becomes evident that taking proactive steps to address these risks is essential for protecting public health. By acknowledging the influence of PFAS on our immune system, researchers and healthcare professionals can develop specific strategies to reduce potential harm and strengthen immunity.

PFAS In Our Blood and Immunity

Almost everyone has some amount of PFAS in their blood. But what does that mean for our health?

People living in heavily polluted areas have been asking their doctors about this. Surprisingly, doctors haven't had much advice to give because there hasn't been clear guidance on how to interpret PFAS levels in blood. To address this, a committee was set up in 2021 by the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).

The committee suggested that if someone's blood PFAS levels are higher than certain limits, they should get extra medical check-ups. This is to catch any potential problems early and take steps to prevent them. However, despite knowing that PFAS can harm the immune system, the committee didn't recommend any extra care or treatment for people with high PFAS levels affecting their immune health.

Lack of Government Regulation on PFAS 

Additionally, the article highlights governmental shortcomings in protecting against PFAS exposure, notably in drinking water regulations and new chemical testing protocols.

To mitigate these risks, several steps are recommended. First, it's crucial to acknowledge the harmful effects of PFAS on our immune systems. Second, there's a pressing need for enhanced testing procedures to assess the safety of PFAS-containing products before they reach the market. Lastly, it's imperative to educate people, especially those in heavily polluted areas, about the risks of PFAS exposure and how they can protect themselves.

How to Avoid PFAS

Minimize PFAS exposure to support immunity. There are several practical steps you can take to safeguard yourself and your loved ones. Cook up a storm without nonstick cookware. Instead, opt for non-toxic cookware options like stainless steel, cast iron, glass, clay, and untreated ceramic.  

Also, consider investing in a water filtration system that is specifically designed to remove PFAS contaminants. This can be especially beneficial if you reside in an area where PFAS contamination in drinking water is known. Regularly replacing the filters in your water filtration system and staying updated on local water quality reports can further aid in ensuring the purity of your drinking water.

When grocery shopping, opt for fresh, whole foods over processed or packaged items whenever possible. Since PFAS can be found in some food packaging materials, especially those that are grease-proof, reducing reliance on pre-packaged foods can help lower your intake of these substances. 

Another tip is to be mindful of the products you use in your daily life. Choose clothing, textiles, and furniture that are labeled as PFAS-free or made from natural fibers to avoid potential exposure to stain-resistant treatments. Avoid waterproof clothing if it’s not necessary - even rain jackets don’t always need to be waterproof if you’re only dashing from door to door.   

PFAS are also found in house dust. Wet dust and mop regularly to minimize touching, breathing, and eating PFAS that circulate around your home. By incorporating these practical tips into your daily routine, you can proactively reduce your exposure to PFAS and promote a healthier living environment for yourself and those around you.