Is Teflon Killing Your Thyroid?

January 28, 2018 | Wellness Resources

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Is Teflon Killing Your Thyroid?
When it comes to chemical exposure, your thyroid is highly vulnerable. This likely explains why rates of thyroid cancer in America are steadily rising while most other cancer rates are actually declining. Unfortunately, our thyroids are all at risk because of our polluted environment.

Most non-biodegradable pollutants are fat soluble. Through random fat sampling, researchers found that almost everyone tested typically had at least 100 toxic chemicals stored in their fat tissues. One toxic, man-made chemical known as Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is both fat- and water-soluble and has been found in small amounts in the fat tissues and blood samples of 98% of the general US population.

What is PFOA?

PFOA is a perfluorinated chemical (PFC) that is used in the production of Teflon and similar products that claim to resist stains, water, oil, grease, fire, or heat. Even waterproof coats and gloves contain PFOA. The major problem with PFOA is that it does not break down in the environment and is toxic to animals and humans. In fact, numerous studies have linked PFOA exposure to thyroid disease.

Altered thyroid function will affect the whole body. Your thyroid is important for regulating energy, body temperature, metabolism rate, heart rate, reproduction, digestion, skin health, and more. Signs that your thyroid might be struggling include always feeling tired, cold hands and feet, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, poor mood, foggy head, and more.

PFOA exposure is not just killing our thyroids. Other studies have linked PFOA exposure with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, reproductive problems and high blood pressure during pregnancy. 

Scientists examined data from 1999 to 2006 taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the largest study of the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States, to determine effects of PFOA. The results showed that the individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report having a thyroid disease. Interestingly, this study showed that those who drank alcohol more frequently were also more likely to develop a thyroid condition when exposed to PFOA, potentially emphasizing the liver’s role in detoxifying PFOA.

In the 1950’s PFOA was released from a mid-Ohio River Valley chemical plant exposing the surrounding community to PFOA for over 50 years, primarily through drinking water. In a major study of the community, researchers looked for signs of thyroid dysfunction associated with PFOA exposure. The results were not surprising. The areas with the highest PFOA exposure resulted in a greater number of community members who took a thyroid medication. This study did not account for people who were not being treated with medication. Women were most likely to be affected (with both hyper and hypothyroidism), but men were also more likely to have hypothyroidism.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Undoubtedly, you have been exposed to PFOA already. You can greatly reduce your exposure by eliminating the use of non-stick, Teflon coated frying pans and anything that claims to resist stains, water, oil, grease, fire, or heat. Choose to buy outerwear that is PFOA or PFC-free.

Many people are exposed to PFOA through contaminated drinking water. The Environmental Working Group has listed some of the most contaminated states and cities here. There is no safe level of PFOA in drinking water, and it is not regulated by the federal government. Protect yourself and your family by filtering your water with a reverse osmosis or activated carbon filter.

Nutrition is another powerful tool you can use to help protect yourself. Nutrients like silymarin, dandelion root, antioxidants, NAC, and coenzyme B vitamins are helpful for supporting your liver and natural detoxification systems. Eating more cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts) and supplementing with diidolylmethane (DIM), indole-3-carbinole (I3C) and probiotics is also essential for proper detoxification of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

If you already have a thyroid condition or you have a family history of a thyroid condition, you know your thyroid is at-risk. Protect your thyroid with nutrients like selenium, vitamin A, iron, vitamin B 12 and zinc and water-soluble iodine. Iosol iodine is a highly absorbable, water-soluble form of iodine that is easily flushed out if you take more than you need.

While it is unlikely that you can avoid PFOA altogether, there are steps you can do to reduce your exposure and protect yourself. Your thyroid is the most at-risk endocrine organ. Especially if you already have a thyroid condition or you struggle with your weight, take steps to protect yourself. In this chemical soup we are exposed to everyday, no step is too small.

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