BENGALURU: Whenever you go shopping for your kitchen, your attention, quite naturally, moves on to the collection of non-stick cookware that is in the store. When shopping for new carpets, stain-resistant is a term that you will hear quite often when a piece is being promoted. With pets and children in the house, the thought is quite enticing. Similarly, you go through the processing of filtering water that comes through the taps — without really giving a thought to the pipes that this water flows through. Well the one thing that all of these have in common is Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which contains substances such as Teflon, which we commonly believed to be good for us.
What is PFOA?
Teflon coated pans are a common occurrence in most homes, especially considering that these products are marketed for the health-conscious. The lesser consumption of oil during the cooking process is what attracts a prospective customer. The problem arises with the overuse of such vessels, which then pave the way for PFOA to enter our systems leading to health hazards.
Most of the fast food packaging as well as candy wrappers and pizza box liners have traces of PFOA in them. PFOA has also been found in
industrial waste, stain resistant carpets, carpet cleaning liquids as well as in house dust, microwaveable popcorn bags, food and water.
PFOA can enter
the human body in three ways
Ingestion: This tends to happen when one uses a pan that is overheated or one that has scratches on the surface exposing a part of the metallic base, chipping off the Teflon coating, which enters the body through the food. Drinking water too contains a certain level of Teflon and, if not checked, can cause trouble.
Inhalation: There are particles of PFOA that float around in the air we breathe. These particles are present in stain-resistant clothing that we wear or carpets that we have in our homes. Micro dust particles containing traces of PFOA, thus enter our systems causing health issues. Being placed close to factories that manufacture PFOA too can result in excessive inhalation.
Once ingested in humans, PFOA has an average elimination half-life of about three years.
When PFOA is in the system, it is metabolised by the kidneys and liver. Thereby in the longer run, affecting these larger organs significantly. Besides these organs, other organs may also get affected and manifest in the form of ailments such as Hypo-Thyroidism, Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) among others. Primarily occurring is Hypo-Thyroidism, which leads to hair loss as well. There are also reports that have shown in animal based testing that there is a connection between PFOA and the occurrence of bladder, colon and prostate cancer.
Studying PFOA and its Effects
Internationally there has been research that broadly concludes that Teflon is dangerous to human health. In fact, in order to find a co-relation between commonly used substances and hair loss, Hairline International Research and Treatment Center also conducted a research which found where it was proven that 80% of the cases visiting the clinic with hair fall are PFOA positive.
What is alarming is that of these cases, 65%, irrespective of gender, developed high cholesterol. 70% of the women developed Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) and 65% developed hypothyroidism. Each of these ailments has a known track record for causing hair fall, besides being life-long ailments in themselves.
(The author is Dermatosurgeon, Hairline International Research & Treatment Centre)