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“Forever Chemicals” Are a Hazard to Our Physical and Mental Health
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ
Sunday, May 14, 2023

Dr. Patricia Farrell
5 min read3 hours ago

When we accepted the chemical company’s slogan of “Better things for better living through chemistry,” we failed to see any downside, and it’s here.

Photo by Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

Not many of us are chemists on the level of those working in chemical companies where new ones are created for specific purposes. But we need specialized chemists to help us in our daily struggles with health and for a variety of tasks in our environment. Are all chemical concoctions safe? The question is being asked with more urgency now that we are beginning to see effects we never realized from products we use in our homes, our offices, gardens, and farms.

The term “forever chemicals” refers to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are man-made chemicals with long-lasting durability and are now widely used in a variety of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, cleaning products, and food packaging materials. Although they have been in use for years, their toxicity and long-term nature have recently raised concerns among environmentalists, prompting them to call for stronger laws and greater awareness.

Science has recently revealed that PFAS, which have long been investigated and debated for their physical consequences, may also have long-term negative effects on our mental health. The effects of these chemicals on cognitive, emotional, and behavioral health are examined in this article along with precautions that can be done to reduce exposure.

States are now coming to terms with the presence of dangerous PFAS in the drinking water. In fact, the Dept. of Ecology of the State of Washington has provided a bit of information on their presence. “43 states have PFAS-contaminated drinking water, affecting 19 million people.

“Forever chemicals” have recently drawn more attention as experts reveal possible risks they bring to our physical and mental health in terms of their neurotoxicity. These widespread substances pose a hazard to public health in subtle ways, from impairing cognitive function to triggering anxiety attacks.

Recent research has indicated, “We found growing evidence that PFAS exposure causes neurotoxicity through the disruption of neurotransmission, particularly the dopamine and glutamate systems, which are implicated in age-related psychiatric illnesses and neurodegenerative diseases.”

Understanding what “forever chemicals” are and why they have become such an essential part of civilization is essential to understanding this issue. These substances (PFASs), were first created during World War II for use in firefighting but have since become more widely used. One of their more alarming traits is their persistence, which prevents them from quickly degrading in the environment and leaving behind harmful residue.

How many people in the scientific community took “Silent Spring” seriously when Rachael Carson laid out the potential devastation of our environment and our health to the reckless disregard for the dangers of certain chemicals? In her case, she was specifically alarmed by the widespread use of DDT.

Researchers looking into the effects of PFAS exposure on brain chemistry and function are finding more and more evidence of its detrimental effects on mental health. It is now clear that some chemicals may pass through the blood-brain barrier to directly affect brain chemistry, raising the risk for a variety of psychological problems while gradually reducing cognitive function. Prolonged exposure to PFASs may raise the chance of developing a variety of mental illnesses and eventually reduce cognitive function.

The link between PFAS exposure and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the more alarming ones. Numerous studies have shown that children and teenagers with higher blood levels of PFAS are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Higher blood levels can increase the risk of this disorder by as much as 64%. Given that ADHD affects millions of children globally and frequently lasts into adulthood, this association is very concerning. An excellent review of the topic and its relationship to physical and mental health as well as environmental topics was published by The Danish Ministry of the Environment.

PFASs have also been associated with cognitive abnormalities and decreased intellectual capacities in children who were exposed to greater concentrations of PFASs during pregnancy and the first few months of life. Numerous other studies have reported similar cognitive impairments among children exposed to elevated concentrations of PFAS, raising serious concerns about their long-term effects.

Research suggests that PFAS exposure may also play a role in other mood disorders such as anxiety and sadness. Numerous studies have found associations between exposure and self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults caused by disruptions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls both the stress response and mood regulation.

The fact that PFAS are so pervasive — an estimated 90% of people in the world have some level of these chemicals in their blood, and these contaminants have also been found in wildlife, soil samples, and tap water — means that the potential mental health risks associated with PFAS exposure affect the entire global population rather than just specific subpopulations of people.

Further study and policy measures cannot be emphasized enough given the data tying PFAS exposure to unfavorable mental health outcomes. To reduce the hazards presented by these “forever chemicals” and safeguard future generations from their damaging effects on mental health, immediate action must be taken.

Supporting legislation that limits PFAS production, usage, and disposal is one of the most important steps we can take in this direction. Additionally, people can take action on their own to reduce exposure by installing water filtration systems, changing cooking methods, and packaging materials, or avoiding goods that contain PFAS.

Herein lies one serious concern: knowing the dangers of PFAS doesn’t mean everyone can install water filtration systems. Some countries will take any water available to them, and this type of financial one-downmanship is troubling. The poor are left without the means to protect themselves and their children.

A broader discussion regarding harmful chemical exposure in society and our general well-being includes “forever chemicals” and mental health. It is imperative that we all take this matter seriously and work together to protect our communities from these potentially dangerous materials in order to ensure the safety and well-being of future generations. We can ensure safer futures by taking action today.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

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Attribution of this material is appreciated.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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