Per-and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) are a collection of thousands of chemicals used to make coatings and products that resist, heat, oil, stain, grease, and water. Think: your non-stick pans, cleaning products, and nail polish. But human exposure to PFAS can occur in another common and edible product — kale.
A new study from the Alliance For Natural Health USA reveals a majority of its kale samples contained PFAS contamination. These findings conflict with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Total Diet Study 2021.
The Alliance For Natural Health USA team acquired kale samples from grocery stores in Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. All kale samples were transferred to Eurofins Laboratories Environment Testing, where each one was tested for 16 PFAS compounds using FDA-approved procedures. Only one kale sample detected zero levels of PFAS.
Following their findings, Alliance For Natural Health USA is calling for a federal ban on all products containing "forever chemicals." The group’s Executive and Scientific Director Robert Verkerk, Ph.D., tells Healthnews that PFAS’s prevalence in consumer products is larger than we know.
"Our test results are concerning because if the FDA’s conclusion from its Total Diet Study testing program was right, all 8 samples of kale would have had zero detectable PFAS. Instead, and very surprisingly, we found 7 out of 8 of our samples were contaminated between the 100 and 250 parts per trillion level. Looking at our pilot study along with a lot of other emerging data, we think that PFAS contamination of the food supply is a much bigger problem than the FDA is letting on."- Verkerk
According to the CDC, "forever chemicals" can be found in clothing, furniture, public water supplies, food packaging, certain cooking surfaces, and within electrical wire insulation. Last summer, the FDA reported PFAS within different types of seafood, including canned tuna, salmon, tilapia, crab, shrimp, cod, and clams. Verkert notes even low levels of PFAS contamination can be dangerous to humans.
"When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued drinking water health advisories on several PFAS in 2022, the agency said that 'some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero.' So any levels detected in kale or other foods are concerning, especially when we consider that food is just one route of exposure to PFAS," Verkerk says.
In March, the EPA proposed its new limits on PFAS compounds in drinking water. The proposal regulates perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to a level that can be consistently measured at four parts per trillion. The proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) is the first-ever national drinking water standard that would regulate six PFAS. Verterk believes the new NPDWR is a step in the right direction.
To start the year, Maine became the first state to ban the sale of products with intentionally added PFAS. Minnesota’s state legislature followed suit in May with a ban on PFAS in consumer products. In 2025, more PFAS bans will come into effect in California, Colorado, Mayland, and Vermont. Verkerk says states are stepping in with PFAS bans to cover for the slow-acting federal government. He cites multiple reasons for little federal government intervention thus far.
"There are a few reasons. From the lawsuits that have been launched against the producers of PFAS, we’re learning that there has been a decades-long cover-up of the negative health effects associated with PFAS — similar to how tobacco companies covered up the effects of cigarettes on lung cancer and other diseases," Verkerk says. "Another reason is that the EPA seems to be taking the 'business as usual' approach, assessing one chemical at a time. This is not a practical approach when there are over 12,000 PFAS out there!"
Since PFAS are found in numerous products, Verkerk claims businesses are willing to continue selling their products "to keep the status quo at the expense of public health."
He notes that the Alliance For Natural Health USA is gathering a grassroots coalition of concerned citizens to impact legislation.
Americans are slowly learning about the negative health effects of PFAS. A recent survey found three-fourths of urban residents were aware of PFAS in their public water supply. Currently, available tests for PFAS in your public supply can be found online. Only select water quality reports are currently available on the EPA website. Verkerk encourages individuals to join Alliance For Natural Health’s cause to get more involved in the battle against PFAS in consumer products.
"While Americans are starting to wake up to this public health catastrophe as a result of studies like ours showing contamination is far wider than federal agencies are suggesting, government agencies are still asleep at the wheel or beholden to special interests. Put simply, they’re not acting in the public interest and they’re woefully behind given the available science. Concerned citizens should sign up for the Alliance for Natural Health’s newsletter to stay abreast of PFAS developments and to take action to ban these dangerous chemicals."
- Alliance For Natural Health USA. ANH's Kale Report.
- FDA. Results for PFAS in 2022 Seafood Survey (Parts Per Trillion).
- EPA. Biden-Harris Administration Proposes First-Ever National Standard to Protect Communities from PFAS in Drinking Water.
- EPA. Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS.
- FDA. 2021 Total Diet Study Sampling.