• By DeeDee Stiepan

Mayo Clinic Minute: ‘Forever chemicals’ found in thousands of household products may affect women’s heart health

July 20, 2022

Thousands of household products that you may use every day contain human-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They're also known as "forever chemicals" because they break down very slowly over time. Studies have found that even small exposures to these per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances pose a health risk.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. DeLisa Fairweather, explains how these forever chemicals affect women's heart health.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:12) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

A new American Heart Association study found that middle-aged women in particular with high blood concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are 70% more likely to develop high blood pressure than their peers who had lower levels of the chemicals.

"As soon as you go through menopause, you have a dramatic drop in estrogen,” explains Dr. Fairweather. "When that happens, it really affects your immune response. And, so, you enter into a much more proinflammatory state, and that can increase your risk for various types of heart disease, like atherosclerosis and stroke."

Forever chemicals are in thousands of household products, including shampoos, cosmetics and plastic packaging.

"It's also in our nonstick pans, like the Teflon pans that we're using. It's in stain-removing products that are in our carpeting and on our furniture, and on our clothes," says Dr. Fairweather.

They're also found in water sources and foods we eat. Making this a concern for everyone — not just for women.

"We're finding that fish that we're eating have it because the water is contaminated with it. It's a major contamination in wells and other sources of water. It's in dairy products because the cattle or dairy cows are receiving it really through fertilizer and other contaminants in their environment," says Dr. Fairweather.

Previous studies have shown that even at low levels these forever chemicals create adverse health effects.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in plastics can be released when heated. Dr. Fairweather says it's important to avoid these types of plastic products and use glass instead whenever possible, especially when heating food.

"What we can do proactively to help ourselves is to read every label on the food that we're purchasing and make sure that it does not have chemicals that we don't understand," says Dr. Fairweather. "We need to educate ourselves and just make sure that if there's anything that isn't the actual food and natural in the food that we don't buy the product."

_________________________________________

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.