The toxins in the box of chemicals that humans have released upon the world are particularly disturbing.

The term "forever chemicals" refers to the ubiquity, persistence and toxicity of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are used in a variety of household items, including non-stick pans, waterproof fabrics, and microwave popcorn bags. They accumulate in living things and do not degrade. Human immune systems are made more susceptible to diseases because of the impairing effect of PFAS. Chemicals are associated with a number of health problems. These observations pertain to the relatively few PFAS we have researched, including PFOA and PFOS, which are unstudied and potentially harmful.

Scientists have found a way to remove PFAS from the human body by donating blood.

The study tracked the levels of the chemicals in the bodies of Australian firefighters, who were exposed to the chemicals frequently. One group of firefighters donated blood every six weeks, another group donated blood every 12 weeks, and a third group acted as a control.

A randomized clinical trial showed that regular blood or plasma donations result in a significant reduction in the levels of PFAS in participants. Blood donors reduced their levels by 10% and plasma donors reduced theirs by 30%. Both groups kept their reduction for at least three months. The study didn't look at whether a reduction in PFAS in the blood leads to better health.

It's almost ironic that the $4tn global wellness industry bends over backwards to sell us dubious detox products, but there is an accessible, easy, and free way to rid our bloodstreams of toxins. Blood is in high demand. The American Red Cross had its worst blood shortage in more than a decade in January. Blood donation services have traditionally invoked altruism to attract and retain donors; perhaps donations will increase as people learn that giving blood may be in their self-interest, too. In the case of donating blood, donors are often paid.

You are pawning off your PFAS on the blood recipient. There is something morally icky about that, and it is important to remember that blood recipients need blood more than they need to worry about PFAS.

Health and ethical questions are raised by the idea of removing toxins from blood.

This is a big controversy. Bruce Lanphear, a co-author of the study and a researcher specializing in childhood exposure to toxins, said that this is a big question. He pointed out that premature babies can require multiple full blood transfusions at a time when they are sensitive to toxic chemicals.

Lanphear says that increased public understanding of chemical contaminants in blood raises questions about the safety of the blood supply.

The Red Cross and the FDA work together to ensure the blood supply is as safe as possible, and individuals should not worry about the safety of donating or receiving blood.

There are no regulatory limitations on PFAS in blood because there is no documented evidence of harm. No study has shown a negative effect on donors or recipients.

Donations save lives.

More research is needed on the effects of PFAS. The US has no national drinking water standard for PFAS contamination and there is no established threshold for safe levels in blood.

Changes in manufacturing could make it less likely that we will be exposed to some PFAS. According to the CDC, national blood levels of PFOA and PFOS declined from 1999 to 2004. Last year, the European Union adopted a plan to phase out all but essential uses of PFAS. In the US, Maine has passed legislation that prohibits the sale of new carpets or fabric treatments that contain intentionally added PFAS as of 2023 and the sale of any products containing added PFAS by 2030. Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington have taken steps to limit the production of PFAS.

There is an ongoing balance between exposure and elimination in the body, as study lead author Dr Robin Gasiorowski puts it. You can speed up that elimination part by giving blood or blood products.

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