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Rising Concerns Over PFAS in Our Diet: A Report from Sweden

PFAS in our Diet: A Colossal Concern with Compound Consequences

Have you ever taken a moment to think about what goes into the fruit and vegetables that grace your dinner table? If you reside in Sweden (or indeed within the EU), recent news serves as a sobering and surprising wake-up call.

What’s on our Plate? The Rise in PFAS

Per-and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS for short), a type of chemical commonly found in pesticides, are increasingly showing up in our fresh produce. According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), we’ve seen an alarming rise in fruit and veg contaminated with traces of PFAS. Think about it this way- in 2011, PFAS were found in just 3.8% of fruit and a meager 2.1% of vegetables. Fast forward to 2021, and these figures have jumped to 14% and 7.1% respectively. Raise eyebrows? We think so!

“PFAS make up 12% of the pesticides approved for use within the EU. But why the increase? Essentially, the use of PFAS-based pesticides is on the rise-and it’s cause for concern,” avidly remarks Eve Roubinet, an expert on organic farming and biodiversity.

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Lingering Unknowns: Is it Safe?

Now, you might be wondering, “Is this bad? Will I drop dead if I munch on my PFAS-contaminated Granny Smith?” The answer to both questions is a resonating no. The amounts of PFAS typically found in food and drinking water won’t cause immediate health problems. But hear this: Some PFAS are known to hang about in our bodies for an extended period. Particularly vulnerable are fetuses, infants, and children.

PAN reports do not indicate how high these levels of PFAS are in fruit and veg. Still, the mere presence itself is cause for concern, according to Roubinet. Her advice? Choose organically grown produce to steer clear of these pesky persistent pollutants.

Between the Lines: What’s the Full Picture?

While the focus in this discourse seems to be on fruit and vegetables, it’s worth bearing in mind that the main source of PFAS in our diet is from animal products. Sabina Litens Karlsson, a toxicologist at the Swedish Food Agency, assures us that the levels in the fruit and vegetables available in stores are relatively low.

“For meat, fish, eggs, and offal, there are limits in place, and companies are required to control these levels. For fruit and veg, no such limitations currently exist, but it’s in the works,” Karlsson advises. Her go-to solution? Add variation to your diet to minimize exposure to any undesired substances.

Journey through Retrospection: From Useful to Ubiquitous

PFAS, a family of several thousand different substances, have been manufactured since the mid-1950s. Hailed for their resistance to high temperatures and their slick, grease and dirt-resistant surfaces, these magic compounds seemed too good to be true. And well, they were. Now, we find them in the environment, indestructible and omnipresent. Chronic exposure could potentially harm human health, especially vulnerable categories like infants and children.

So as we compellingly observe from this sobering news from the Swedish press, the vegetables and fruits we consume are not as “clean” as we previously believed. And while the levels of PFAS contamination might not be lethal or cause immediate harm, the situation warrants our attention,for the health of our families and future generations alike. Discuss it, research it, and most importantly, spread the word about it.

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