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Understanding Forever Chemicals (PFAS): How Athletes and Everyone Can Avoid Them

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), often referred to as "forever chemicals," have garnered increasing attention due to their widespread presence in the environment and potential health risks. These synthetic compounds have raised concerns among athletes and the general population alike. In this article, we will delve into the scientific aspects of PFAS, their sources, and the best ways for athletes and laypeople to minimize exposure.

Understanding PFAS

PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals known for their exceptional stability, persistence, and resistance to degradation. This durability earned them the nickname "forever chemicals." The two most well-known PFAS compounds are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). They have been used in various industrial and consumer products, including non-stick cookware, water-resistant fabrics, and firefighting foams.

Potential Health Risks

Research suggests that exposure to PFAS may have adverse health effects. Some studies have associated PFAS exposure with health issues such as cancer, liver damage, thyroid disorders, and developmental problems in children. Given the performance-driven nature of athletes, these health concerns are particularly relevant to them.

Sources of Exposure

  1. Drinking Water: Contaminated water sources are a significant route of PFAS exposure. Athletes should be aware of the quality of their water sources and consider filtration systems to reduce exposure.

  2. Diet: PFAS can accumulate in the food chain, especially in fish and livestock. Athletes can choose foods sourced from regions with lower contamination levels and reduce their consumption of highly processed or fast foods.

  3. Consumer Products: Items like non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and stain-resistant carpets can contain PFAS. Athletes should look for PFAS-free alternatives when purchasing such products.

  4. Work Environments: Some athletes might be exposed to PFAS in their workplace, especially if they work with fire-resistant materials or firefighting equipment. Proper safety measures, including protective gear, can help mitigate exposure.

Minimizing Exposure

  1. Stay Informed: Regularly check for updates from your local water authorities regarding water quality. Understand the PFAS contamination levels in your area.

  2. Water Filtration: Invest in a high-quality water filtration system, especially if you rely on well water or have concerns about the safety of your tap water.

  3. Healthy Diet Choices: Consume a diet rich in fresh, unprocessed foods. Be mindful of the source of your food, favoring products from areas with lower PFAS contamination.

  4. Choose PFAS-Free Products: Opt for alternatives to PFAS-containing products in your daily life, such as stainless steel cookware, natural-fiber clothing, and non-toxic cleaning products.

  5. Protective Measures: If you work in an environment with potential PFAS exposure, follow all recommended safety protocols and wear appropriate protective gear.

As professional athletes and everyday athletes, it is crucial to be aware of the presence of PFAS in our environment and the potential health risks associated with these persistent chemicals. By staying informed, making mindful choices about our water, diet, and consumer products, and taking necessary precautions in our workplaces, we can reduce our exposure to these "forever chemicals" and protect our health. In doing so, athletes can continue to pursue their performance goals with a greater peace of mind.


  1. Grandjean, P., & Clapp, R. (2015). Perfluorinated alkyl substances: emerging insights into health risks. New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, 25(2), 147-163.

  2. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2021). Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). Retrieved from

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