PFAS and Microplastics: Avoid and Detoxify

PFAS and microplastics

PFAS and microplastics are ubiquitous toxins that we all have lurking in our body. Scientists know how harmful they can be to our health, but are unsure at what level of toxic burden might cause us harm. Learn what you can do to avoid PFAS and microplastics and excrete them from your body.

PFAS and microplastics

Pollution remains a major global threat to health and prosperity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. According to an updated estimate based on the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2019, pollution is responsible for approximately 9 million deaths per year, corresponding to one in six deaths worldwide [1]. Deaths from modern pollution risk factors, such as ambient air pollution and toxic chemical pollution (e.g., lead), have risen by 7% since 2015 and by over 66% since 2000 [2].

Air pollution remains one of the most significant environmental risks to health. Prolonged exposure to its toxicity ignites a multitude of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, including lung cancer [3]. A chilling revelation from the World Health Organization (WHO) forces us to confront the harsh reality – outdoor air pollution alone claims the lives of 4.2 million people annually [4]. And yet, the threat isn’t confined to the open air; indoor air pollution, often a consequence of humble cooking and heating practices, claims an additional 3.8 million lives each year [4].

But let’s not forget what’s lurking in our water – pollution of this irreplaceable resource spawns waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis A. Beyond these cruel infections, exposure to toxic chemicals in our water sources unfolds a sinister tapestry of afflictions, including cancer, developmental disorders, and debilitating neurological damage.

Adding to the onslaught are the “forever chemicals” called PFAS and microplastics. You’ve been exposed to them. They’re likely to be a threat to your health as this toxic burden accumulates in your body. And that’s why I want to alert you to the danger, tell you how to test for them and suggest ways to excrete these toxins from your body.


‘Forever Chemicals’: The Grim Specter of PFAS

PFAS and microplastics are everywhere

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) cast a long, ominous shadow across our lives. These synthetic chemicals infiltrate countless products, tainting our water and soil worldwide. They are aptly christened “forever chemicals” due to their strong bonds and persistence in the environment, potentially taking hundreds or even thousands of years to break down [5]. PFAS have stealthily crept into the bloodstream of virtually every individual, and their production remains largely unchecked [5]. With over 12,000 variations of these toxins, we remain alarmingly ignorant of their potential to compromise our health [5].

The damning link between PFAS exposure and a litany of maladies – cancer, developmental disorders, compromised immunity, hormonal havoc, and surging cholesterol levels – is chilling to contemplate [6].

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly every American, 97%, has some level of PFAS in their blood [7].

The Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy group focused on toxic chemicals, monitors pollutants in drinking water and estimated in June, 2022 that 2,000 U.S. communities had levels of PFAS in their drinking water that were above the EPA’s new limits, affecting an estimated 200 million Americans [8].

Experts say they’re still trying to figure out what threshold levels are dangerous, but that any amount of PFAS can potentially be harmful to the human body [8].

How You’re Exposed to PFAS

PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of synthetic chemicals that are found in various products and contaminate water and soil around the world. People are most likely exposed to these chemicals by consuming PFAS-contaminated water or food, using products made with PFAS, or breathing air containing PFAS [9].

These are some of the common sources of exposure to PFAS:

  • Air: PFAS can be released into the air during manufacturing processes or from the use of PFAS-containing products, and can be inhaled [10].
  • Drinking water: PFAS can contaminate drinking water sources, particularly near industrial sites and military bases where firefighting foam containing PFAS has been used [11].
  • Food: PFAS can accumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish and shellfish, and in crops grown with PFAS-contaminated water or soil [12][13].
  • Consumer products: PFAS are used in a variety of consumer products, including non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, waterproof clothing, and personal care products like dental floss and cosmetics [10][12].
  • Occupational exposure: Workers involved in making or processing PFAS and PFAS-containing materials are more likely to be exposed than the general population [10].

There’s not much you can do if you live in an area where the air is contaminated with PFAS, other than purifying the air inside your house, but you can make sure you filter the water you drink (see suggested air cleaners below and water filters below), and you can be vigilant about avoiding the food and consumer products contaminated with them.

You’re incentivized to do this, because PFAS can ruin your health.

How PFAS Can Harm You

Exposure to PFAS can lead to a variety of health problems, including:

  • Liver damage: PFAS exposure has been linked to liver damage, including changes in liver enzymes and liver disease [14][15].
  • Thyroid disease: PFAS exposure has been associated with changes in thyroid hormone levels, which can lead to thyroid disease [14][16].
  • Obesity: Some studies have suggested that PFAS exposure may be linked to obesity and weight gain [14][17].
  • Fertility issues: Exposure to PFAS has been linked to decreased fertility in both men and women [14][18].
  • Cancer: Exposure to PFAS has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers [14][16].
  • Developmental effects: Exposure to PFAS has been linked to developmental effects in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, and behavioral changes [16].
  • Immune system changes: Exposure to PFAS has been associated with changes in the immune system, including decreased antibody response to vaccines [18].

It’s almost certain that you have PFAS in your body — that’s known. What’s unknown is how much of this toxic burden are you dealing with and to what extent is it affecting your health?

Test Yourself for PFAS

There are several blood tests available for PFAS, but not all of them are widely available. Here are some of the most effective blood tests:

  • At-Home PFAS Blood Test – 16 CDC Compounds: This at-home PFAS test kit analyzes 16 different forever chemicals like PFOA and PFOS (C8) in your blood with a simple finger prick [19]. PFAS exposure is a growing concern, and this test can help individuals understand their exposure levels.
  • PFAS Blood Level Estimation Tool: This tool is a web-based estimator for public use that provides personalized estimates of PFAS concentrations in blood based on exposure to one or more PFAS in drinking water [20]. The tool also provides comparisons to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. It was created to allow community members to obtain an estimate of their PFAS blood levels without having to undergo biological sampling.
  • Michigan State University Blood Test: The new PFAS blood test is available for purchase through empowerDX [21].

Once you know your PFAS levels, it’s important to identify potential sources, like your drinking water, cookware, or cosmetics, and lower your exposure to those things. Understanding that exposure can lead to early diagnosis and early treatment, early detection is key to treating any potential health issues related to PFAS exposure


The Microplastic World-wide Binge

PFAS and microplastics are everywhere.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are ubiquitous pollutants found almost everywhere on earth. They can range in size from less than one nanometer to several millimeters. New research using the largest datasets available on freshwater microplastics found that the particles were mostly comprised of polyethylene and polypropylene [22]. Other research into the microplastics within bottled water found that more than 90% of samples contained microplastics, again, most of which were polypropylene [23].

How You’re Exposed to Microplastics

Recently, researchers have found microplastics in human blood, which is a new vessel for microplastics that unfurls a dire chapter in the annals of pollution’s devastation.

These micro bits of plastic come from a variety of sources, including the breakdown of larger plastic items and commercial use, such as in the cosmetics industry.

These are some types of products that contain microplastics:

  • Food: Microplastics have been found in a variety of foods, including fruit and vegetables, salt, tea, bottled water, beer, rice, fish and shellfish, and honey [24][25][26]. Salt containing microplastics is still available in supermarkets, grocery stores, or online shops [24]. A study found that 87% of the products studied contained microplastics [27]. (Read my post: How To Get Rid of Dangerous Microplastics in Salt, Water, Cosmetics — and You!.)
  • Plastic items: Microplastics can come from our daily plastic disposables, such as supermarket packaging, fruit packaging nets, bread packing, plastic water bottles, and plastic bags [24][26].

How Microplastics Can Harm You

Scientists have detected microplastics near the peak of Mount Everest, in the Mariana Trench, and even in baby poop. And now researchers have found microplastics in human blood, which is a new vessel for microplastics. The impact of microplastics on health is as yet unknown, but researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory.

Microplastics, minuscule but insidious, infiltrate our bodies, including the brain, potentially kindling neurodegenerative conditions akin to nightmares. This infiltration is as ubiquitous in our bodies as it is in the environment, manifesting in behavioral aberrations, particularly among our elders. Regrettably, our understanding of the health ramifications of microplastics, especially in mammals, remains woefully inadequate [28][29][30][31][32].

The impact of microplastics on health is as yet unknown, but researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year. Here are some of the health risks associated with microplastics in the human body:

  • Damage to human cells: A study found that microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory at levels known to be eaten by people via their food. The harm included cell death and allergic reactions, and the research is the first to show this happens at levels relevant to human exposure [32].Impaired organ function: Studies have shown that ingestion of microplastics in marine organisms can cause oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, decreased fertility, and impaired organ function, including the liver and kidneys [33][34].
  • Immune system toxicity: Exposure to nano- and microplastics can lead to immune cell toxicity and impairments in oxidative and inflammatory intestinal balance, as well as disruption of the gut’s epithelial permeability [35].
  • Health ailments: PFAS, which are often found in conjunction with microplastics, have been linked to many health ailments, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and thyroid disease [36].
  • Inflammation: In vitro experiments with human cells and in vivo data generated with mice showed that microplastics elicit adverse health effects mainly by causing inflammation [33].
  • Oxidative stress: Microplastics can cause oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body [33]. Increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production can lead to lipid metabolism disturbances, gut microbiota dysbiosis, and neurotoxicity.

Test Yourself for Microplastics

Sorry to say that, although there are several methods used to detect microplastics in human blood samples in a laboratory setting, none that I could find can you use at home, or probably not even at your doctor’s office.

That said, some of the methods used in labs include:

  • Double-shot pyrolysis and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry: This method was used in a study where microplastics were found in the blood of 17 out of 22 healthy adults. The researchers used this technique to identify and analyze the plastic particles in the blood samples [37][38].
  • Raman and infrared spectroscopy: These techniques have been used for the identification of microplastics in environmental samples, as they can be used to identify the chemical composition of the particles [39].
  • Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy: This method is used to detect and quantify microplastic concentrations in water samples and can potentially be applied to human blood samples

Given what a problem microplastics have become, I’m hoping that some innovative company will devise a test we can order and do at home, or trot down to our local LabCorp or QuestLabs.


Reduce and Excrete PFAS and Microplastics

Mechanisms of liver detoxification

Avoidance is the best strategy, but by now you’ve got the sense that avoiding PFAS and microplastics entirely is a Herculean task. Just do what you can do, and then think about how  you want to go about excreting the PFAS and microplastics that are inside you.

Avoid Accumulating PFAS and Microplastics

Here are some ways to avoid accumulating PFAS and microplastics:

  • Reduce exposure to PFAS: Avoid using products made with PFAS, such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, waterproof clothing, and personal care products like dental floss and cosmetics [41][42].
  • Check the labels of products you use in your home, and contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission if you have questions or concerns [42].
  • Use air filtration devices: Simple air filtration devices called Corsi-Rosenthal boxes have been found to be effective at reducing indoor air pollutants, including PFAS [43].
  • Use air purifiers: Air purifiers with activated carbon filters can help reduce PFAS in indoor air [42].
  • Reduce exposure to microplastics: Opt for natural clothing and bedding made from natural fibers like cotton and wool, and avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester [44]. Reduce your use of plastic bags, bottles, and food packaging, and choose eco-friendly, sustainable alternatives [45].
  • Consume a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help support your body’s natural detoxification processes and reduce exposure to toxins like PFAS and microplastics [44][45].
  • Drink filtered water: Use a water filter that can remove PFAS and microplastics from your drinking water [43].
  • Support your liver: Consuming liver-supporting herbs like milk thistle and dandelion root, and increasing fiber intake can help support your body’s natural detoxification processes [45].
  • Reduce plastic waste: Reduce your use of single-use plastics, and properly dispose of plastic waste to prevent it from entering the environment [45].

Detoxify the PFAS and Microplastics Inside You

As I keep harping about, the best way to deal with toxins such as PFAS and microplastics is to limit your exposure to them, but, again, this requires diligence and forethought, and even then some amount of exposure is inevitable.

According to recent studies, both PFAS and microplastics have been found in human organs, including the liver and kidneys. Microplastics have been detected in lung, liver, spleen, and kidney tissue [46]. PFAS has been detected in human urine, and renal excretion in humans accounts for approximately one-fifth of the total excretion [47].

Studies have also found that microplastics can travel to internal organs such as the kidney and liver and cause adverse effects on the cellular level [48][49]. In addition, microplastics have been found in human blood cells, with 80% of volunteer subjects having microplastics present in their blood cells [50].

You can take the tests I reviewed above to ascertain your level of PFAS and, someday perhaps microplastics as well, but really the odds are very high that you have them in you.

So, what can you do about it?

What you can do is to help empower your innate detoxification pathways to ramp up and excrete these toxins from your body by an innate biochemical process known as biotransformation.

I wrote about our body’s detoxification pathways in a three-part series that you can read if you’re interested in a deeper dive into the topic:

Suffice to say here that Phase 1 detoxification, also known as the functionalization phase, is the first line of defense against toxins. It consists of a group of enzymes called the cytochrome P450 family, which help neutralize substances like PFAS by converting them into less harmful metabolites [51]. This phase involves oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis reactions [52].

Phase 2 detoxification, also known as the conjugation phase, neutralizes the byproducts of phase 1 detoxification and other remaining toxins by making them water-soluble. This is done through a process called conjugation, which involves adding chemical groups to the phase 1 metabolites.

Phase 2 detoxification relies on specific nutrients, mostly amino acids, which we must obtain from our diet. Some of the main conjugation pathways in phase 2 detoxification include glutathione conjugation, sulfate conjugation, and glycine conjugation [53].

While currently there is no definitive method to eliminate PFAS and microplastics from the body, supporting the phase 1 and 2 detoxification pathways may help enhance the body’s natural detoxification processes [54].

Here’s how to go about it:

  • Reduce exposure to PFAS and microplastics. Yes, we’ve covered this, but it bears repeating, because it’s the most effective thing you can do to not add to your toxin burden.: Avoid using products made with PFAS, reduce your use of single-use plastics, and properly dispose of plastic waste to prevent it from entering the environment [55][56].
  • Consume a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help support your body’s natural detoxification processes and reduce exposure to toxins like PFAS and microplastics [56][57].
  • Drink filtered water: Use a water filter that can remove PFAS and microplastics from your drinking water [58].
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts contain compounds like sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, which can help support both phase 1 and 2 detoxification pathways.
  • Support your liver: Consuming the following liver-supporting foods, herbs and compounds, such as milk thistle and dandelion root, as well as increasing fiber intake, can help support your body’s natural detoxification processes [56][57]:
    • Garlic and onions: These foods are rich in sulfur-containing compounds, which can support phase 2 detoxification, particularly the glutathione conjugation pathway.
    • Turmeric: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been shown to support liver detoxification and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Green tea: Rich in antioxidants called catechins, green tea can help support phase 2 detoxification pathways.
    • N-acetylcysteine (NAC): This supplement is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in phase 2 detoxification.
    • Alpha-lipoic acid: This antioxidant can help support both phase 1 and 2 detoxification pathways and has been shown to increase glutathione levels.
    • B vitamins: B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are essential for the proper functioning of phase 1 and 2 detoxification pathways.


Your Takeaway

The growing specter of pollution, and its cruel impact on our health, casts a grim shadow over our world. The time for action is now. As ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS entwine their grip, and the ominous threat of microplastics looms large, we must prioritize research and regulation to fathom these perils. By addressing these issues.

But the first thing to do is to protect yourself.

Do this by taking these three steps:

  1. Identify what sources of PFAS and microplastics you encounter. I’ve listed a bunch of them above.
  2. Gradually act to reduce exposure to these sources of PFAS and microplastics.
  3. Try some of the foods, herbs and compounds I’ve listed to help your innate detoxification pathways do their jobs. They may need some help in this toxic world.





Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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