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PFOS – toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Thursday, November 23, 2017 by

PFOS stands for perfluorooctane sulfonate, which is a renowned global pollutant. The chemical is also known as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and is classified as a man-made fluorosurfactant. PFOS is one of the two perfluoroalkyls that are produced in significantly large quantities across the U.S., a Pub Chem entry notes. The article adds that perfluoroalkyls such as PFOS contain remarkably unique properties as they are known to repel oil, grease and water. The toxic compound has been added to Annex B of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in May 2009.

List of known side effects

A data sheet published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals that PFOS exposure is associated with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. The fact sheet cited one case study where workers exposed to the hazardous chemical have a higher incidence of bladder cancer deaths compared with their non-exposed counterparts. Likewise, the harmful compound is known to raise the odds of developing testicular or kidney cancer.

Exposure to the toxic chemical is also found to affect thyroid function and result in related illnesses. PFOS is shown to impact cholesterol balance and compromise heart health as well. Moreover, the compound is known to induce liver damage and affect antibody production and overall immunity. The harmful chemical is notoriously detrimental to pediatric health as well. PFOS is associated with an increased risk of developmental issues during fetal stages. Likewise, breastfed infants exposed to PFOS may suffer from low birth weight, accelerated puberty and skeletal variations.

The hazardous compound is a globally-recognized pollutant that primarily targets waterways and resources. It is notably harmful to aquatic ecosystems and animals.

Body systems affected by PFOS

PFOS is particularly detrimental to the thyroid glands, liver and heart health. Likewise, the chemical compromises the body’s overall immunity. PFOS exposure may also impact both the urinary and reproductive systems. The compound may negatively affect fetal development as well.

Items that can contain PFOS

PFOS is the main ingredient in manufacturing the fabric protector Scotchgard and other stain repellents. The harmful compound is also used in the production of surface protection products such as carpet and clothing treatments, paper coating and cardboard packaging. The chemical is utilized in manufacturing various fire-fighting foams as well. Likewise, PFOS is used in various other waterproof, stain-resistant or non-stick items such as textile, leather and cleaning and polishing products as well as photographic processing items, pesticides and coating additives for non-stick cookware.

How to avoid PFOS

An entry posted on the Radical Life Catalog blog features a few suggestions in order to reduce the risk of PFOS exposure. These include:

  • Buying organic textiles and carpets made from natural materials.
  • Avoiding non-stick cookware and coated food packaging.
  • Using green cleaning products.
  • Steering clear of household pesticides.
  • Filtering household water via activated carbon and reverse osmosis filters.
  • Monitoring area for potential PFOS contamination.

Where to learn more


PFOS exposure raises the odds of bladder, testicular and kidney cancer.

PFOS may increase the risk of liver damage, thyroid dysfunction and heart disease.

PFOS affects antibody production and compromises the body’s overall immunity.

PFOS exposure may result in low birth weight, accelerated puberty and skeletal variations.

PFOS is particularly detrimental to the thyroid glands, liver and heart health.

PFOS may also negatively impact the urinary, immune and reproductive systems.


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