Media Coverage of the report:
New York Post
Great Lakes Now
Blue Book Services
The Dean Mackin Show
PFAS Project Lab, Northeastern University
The People’s Voice TV
Chemical Free Life
World Energy Data
Climate News Now
The EU Times
Tech News Today
La Lettre de la Tribu
The Aegis Alliance
News Directory 3
Frequently Asked Questions
What inspired this study? Why did you find it necessary to validate the findings of the US TDS data?
As an organization dedicated to advocating for and educating about natural health, we cover a variety of issues including the many ways we are exposed to dangerous environmental contaminants. Like many Americans, we became increasingly concerned reading reports about extensive contamination of the environment with PFAS chemicals and what that means for human health. A growing number of studies link PFAS with a wide array of serious health effects, including cancer, thyroid disease, decreased immune function, reduced birth weight and even birth defects. Then the evidence started mounting of PFAS being found in drinking water, prescription drugs, in the air, in food packaging, and in pesticides. Yet, the FDA continued to claim, as recently as May this year, that the vast majority of food it had tested as part of its Total Diet Study (97 percent to be more precise), had no detectable PFAS in it. The only real problem they had found was linked to seafood. Even today, the FDA states, “To date, we have found that most foods not grown or produced in specific geographic areas with known PFAS contamination do not have detectable levels of PFAS”. We wanted to take a larger action to push this issue forward, educate the public and lawmakers, and spur greater action. As a non-profit, our resources are limited, so we couldn’t afford extensive testing, but we wanted to do a small pilot study to determine if we could trust the FDA’s data and help further the discussion. We decided to test for PFAS contamination of common supermarket vegetables and to start with kale because it’s viewed as one of the healthiest options at the store. We also decided to test both organic and non-organic kale given we were aware of evidence that pesticides could be one of the possible sources. Frankly, we were also expecting to find no detectable residues in the organic kale – so you can imagine our surprise when we found all 4 sample of organic kale, and 3 out of 4 of conventionally grown kale were contaminated.
Do you feel that the samples you chose were indicative of kale contamination nationwide? What do you feel are the major limitations of this pilot study?
Our samples were from New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, which does indicate that this is a problem across many regions of the US. A major limitation of the pilot study – as with any pilot – is the small sample size, but that’s also the point: we intended this not to be the final say, but to spur additional research and more importantly a stronger response from the federal government to protect Americans from these dangerous chemicals. We’ve had reason in the past to not trust the FDA because of its revolving doors with Big Pharma – and our pilot study was another reminder that our concerns have been well placed.
What do we know about how PFAS ends up in kale?
There are a number of ways PFAS can end up in kale. One of the more likely scenarios is contamination of the local water used for irrigation and in hydroponic cultivation with PFAS. We know this is a massive issue, that was recently brought to light by the US Geological Survey which estimates that at least 45% of US tap water is contaminated with one or more PFAS. The biosolids used to fertilize crops can also be contaminated with PFAS. It’s also possible that PFAS in the packaging or along the supply chain to the grocery store might have contaminated the kale. To ensure that our sampling wasn’t the source of the contamination, we used PFAS-free collection bags into which we placed the kale supplied by the lab – Eurofins – that did the analyses.
Did you test the kale packaging at all? Is it possible that the plastic it comes wrapped in could be the source of PFAS?
We did not test the kale packaging, but it is possibly a source of the contamination. But because even the unpackaged kale was contaminated, it can’t be the only source, and may not be the major source, hence we’re more inclined to consider the irrigation water as a greater culprit.
How does kale seem to compare to other vegetables in terms of PFAS contamination? How likely is produce to contain unsafe levels of PFAS, compared to other food groups? Do we even have enough data to answer this?
We simply don’t know enough at this stage, but we hope to be in a more informed place as we increase the amount of testing we do going forward. This lack of information about testing – and the suggestion that we probably can’t rely on the FDA’s data is of course part of the message of this study and its associated report and campaign. We point out the limited nature of the FDA’s testing, which has been used to create the false impression that the food supply – including all vegetables, grains and other plant foods are safe and the problem is limited to a few food groups, notably seafood. The FDA’s testing found no PFAS contamination in all of the kale samples it had tested (just 4 in total), and that our independent testing using validated methodologies found 7 of 8 samples to be contaminated, should give us pause in trusting the FDA’s message that the majority of our supply is safe from PFAS.
As far as you know, is there any way to remove PFAS from produce? Does washing kale with tap water do anything to decrease exposure to the toxins?
Unfortunately, we’re not aware of any data that shows that rinsing, washing, steaming or even boiling vegetables removes significant amounts of PFAS. That’s because the contamination – especially if it comes from irrigation water isn’t just on the outside of the plant. Then of course household water may also be contaminated, as the US Geological Survey study suggests. This points to the larger issue: it’s not just one source of contamination – PFAS is everywhere. It’s in textiles, consumer products, cookware, the air, soil, water, food, and food packaging. PFAS also accumulate in our body. The issue isn’t PFAS contaminated kale per se, it’s more that we likely live in a PFAS contaminated world that poses a public health threat – one that federal regulators seem intent on shielding from public view.
What kind of action would you like to see at a state or federal level in terms of surveillance and/or regulation of PFAS?
We want to see an outright ban on these chemicals as a group, along the lines of the total ban being pursued in the European Union, which actually has buy-in from the majority of industries which have relied on PFAS for their unique water and grease-repelling properties. Business as usual in the US would have the EPA continue to do risk evaluations one chemical at a time…but there are 12,000 PFAS chemicals! Going through the motions is akin to doing nothing at all. Having industry substitute one well studied, subsequently banned PFAS with a less studied, equally harmful and yet-to-be-banned alternative, will do nothing for the public’s health, or the contamination of the environment on which we all depend. The EPA has the authority to ban these chemicals as a class, and we think it should do so as soon as feasibly possible. Europe is trying to pull this off in three years – there’s no reason we couldn’t do it in a similar time frame. But nothing will happen fast enough without the cages of the federal agencies being rattled by the grassroots and by politicians working in the public’s best interest.
Why has the federal government been slow to confront PFAS in products?
There are a few reasons. From the lawsuits that have been launched against the producers of PFAS, we’re learning that there has been a decades-long cover-up of the negative health effects associated with PFAS—similar to how tobacco companies covered up the effects of cigarettes on lung cancer and other diseases. Another reason is that the EPA seems to be taking the “business as usual” approach, assessing one chemical at a time. This is not a practical approach when there are over 12,000 PFAS out there! We’ve included a detailed look at the regulatory problems facing us with PFAS.
Then there’s the issue of special interests who want to keep using these chemicals in production. Because PFAS are used in a variety of products, there is a massive incentive among these businesses to keep the status quo at the expense of public health. That’s why we’re trying to build a groundswell of grassroots support, so policymakers start listening to citizens concerned for their health and safety, rather than big businesses that prioritize their bottom line above all else.
What is causing states to act on PFAS? Maine became the first state to ban products with PFAS earlier this year.
States are stepping in because the federal government has been so slow to act. Some of these states have specific sites where PFAS were dumped, so the problem is more acute. But we know that PFAS persist in the environment and travel long distances, so this isn’t just a problem for communities that are situated next to polluters. We need a much more joined up approach.
It’s at least a step in the direction that the EPA proposed in March 2023 new drinking water limits for six PFAS (4 parts per trillion (ppt) for two chemicals and 1 ppt for four chemicals) which it expects to be able to turn into law via the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) by the end of the 2023. If fully implemented, the EPA claims “the rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses.”
What can individuals do to educate themselves more on PFAS, and know if they have grocery goods, other products, or a water supply with high levels of PFAS?
While Americans are starting to wake up to this public health catastrophe as a result of studies like ours showing contamination is far wider than federal agencies are suggesting, government agencies are still asleep at the wheel or too locked into keeping industry sweet. Put simply, they’re not acting in the public interest and they’re woefully behind given the available science. Concerned citizens should sign up for the Alliance for Natural Health’s newsletter to stay abreast of PFAS developments and to take action to ban these dangerous chemicals. Incredibly, there are not broad testing requirements for PFAS in your food, water, and consumer goods. You can find your water system’s annual water quality at this EPA webpage, but many water systems are not currently testing for PFAS. In the absence of broader PFAS testing requirements, the Environmental Working Group has created this interactive map showing known PFAS contamination sites. The lack of information goes to the heart of the current problem and the urgent need for advocacy on this issue to ban PFAS to stop further contamination.
We’re asking as many people as possible to download our pilot study report while also pressure on the EPA to ban all PFAS chemicals outright. You can do all of this from our BanPFAS.org portal, as well as watch and share a 5 minute video we’ve made about the issue, narrated by leading New York integrative doctor, Ron Hoffman, M.D., who is also the President of ANH-USA.
Read past ANH-USA coverage on PFAS:
EPA Acts on PFAS, 3/16/2023
PFAS is Poison: DuPont Knew All Along, 1/31/2023
Toxic Toilet Tissue, 8/4/2022
PFAS Contamination is Worse Than You Thought, 7/14/2022
Sewage Contaminating Your Food 6/24/2022
Prescription Drugs Laced with PFAS, 6/16/2022