The Problem With PFCs

The problem with PFCs and how to avoid them

Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency only tests chemicals after there is evidence they are harmful? Did you know that out of the more than 60,000 synthetic chemicals produced globally, the EPA has only restricted five? (15) In a previous post, I wrote about the negative health effects of Teflon, a member of the chemical family called PFCs. Unsurprisingly, chemicals similar to Teflon also have concerning effects on our health.

What are PFCs?

Perfluorinated Chemicals, or PFCs are a family of chemicals where all molecules have carbon backbones fully surrounded by fluorine atoms. (1) This structure makes them non-polar which gives them the ability to repel other substances.

How are PFCs Used?

Like PTFE (Teflon), these chemicals are incorporated into products to make them more resistant to stains, grease and water. (1) Companies have incorporated PFCs into carpeting, furniture upholstery, clothing, food wrap, fast food containers, car seats, shoes, and even tents. (2, 3, 9)

Anytime a fabric is labeled waterproof, water-resistant, or stain resistant it is most likely made with PFCs.

Independent testing by Greenpeace found PFCs in all of the materials tested from the following companies (brand of PFC treated fabric in parentheses):

  • Adidas (Gore-Tex, Formation)
  • Columbia (Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective, Omni-Tech Waterproof Breathable)
  • Jack Wolfskin (Texapore, Nanuk 300)
  • Mammut (Exotherm Pro STR)
  • Patagonia (Gore-Tex)
  • The North Face (Gore-Tex, Primaloft One)(9)

The Problems with PFCs

One of the most concerning aspects of PFCs is that they have contaminated both our bodies and our environment. Surveys have shown that over 95% of Americans have concentrations of PFCs in their blood. (1)

They have been identified as some of the most persistent synthetic chemicals. The EPA even stated that PFCs present “persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.” (2) Persistence refers to their long half-lives which means they remain in organisms for long periods of time. Bioaccumulation means that the higher an organism is on the food chain, the higher concentration it will have in its body.

Studies show that exposure to PFCs is associated with smaller birth weight in newborns, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, inflammation of the liver, weaker immune systems, kidney and testicular cancers, obesity and even pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia. (2, 3)

To understand the health risks it’s important to understand some of the chemistry of PFCs. Once again, PFCs have a chemical structure that is comprised of a “backbone” of carbon atoms, which are surrounded by fluorine atoms. (1)

Types of PFCs

There are two main groups of PFCs. Long-chain PFCs contain eight or more carbons, while short-chain PFCs contain seven or less. (13)

Long-chain PFCs are more persistent in the environment, and their health effects are more well known. Many have now been banned in the US, but only to be replaced by short-chain PFCs whose effects are still being studied.

The two most problematic long-chain PFCs are PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfate) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid), both of which have eight carbons. For this reason they are often referred to as C8.

PFOS is a soap-like agent, first used by 3M during the fabrication of Scotchgard. PFOA is most often used to produce PTFE or Teflon. It can be found in fire fighting foams, paints, textiles, lacquers and carpets. (14, 15)

Since its discovery in the early 1950s, PFOA has spread around the globe, even contaminating biota in Antartica and the Arctic Circle. As these are places where the chemical isn’t produced, this is evidence of its ability to be transported long distances via ocean currents. (14)

PFOA can also be transported via the atmosphere in two ways: bound to other particles which are emitted from industrial facilities, or because its chemical precursors pollute the air and they then degrade into PFOA.

Our bodies are contaminated because our food and water is contaminated by it, as is our air, our fabrics, and our cookware. It will even pass through the umbilical cord. (15)

PFOA is the most common PFC found in people’s blood, and this is especially true for those who work with or near the chemical. Some of the most concerning information regarding the chemical’s effects comes from those who were exposed to PFOA while working at the DuPont Plant in Washington, West Virginia. (4)

Dupont Case PFOA Coverup

Below is a summary of the story of how DuPont covered up information about the health and environmental effects of PFOA. The full version is here, and it is both fascinating and sickening.

DuPont Chemical began purchasing PFOA in 1951 from 3M, which invented the compound in 1947. PFOA keeps Teflon (a trademarked invention of DuPont) from clumping during production. (15)

At this time there were no government warnings or regulations regarding PFOA, but 3M recommended that DuPont dispose of the chemical by either incineration, or by sending it to chemical-waste disposal facilities. DuPont’s own instructions specified that PFOA shouldn’t be allowed to enter sewers or water supplies. (15)

But of course, DuPont broke its own rules and hundreds of thousands of pounds of PFOA powder made its way through the outfall pipes of DuPont’s facility in Washington, WV, which sits on the Ohio River.

In addition, DuPont disposed of 7,100 tons of sludge laced with the chemical into open and unlined pits. PFOA entered the local water table near the DuPont plant and contaminated the potable water supply used by more than 100,000 people.

To make matters worse, DuPont knew that the chemical could be harmful thanks to its own researchers who had been investigating the effects on animals. Beginning in 1961 they discovered that PFOA could increase the size of livers in rats and rabbits, and they later replicated the results in dogs.

Researchers found that PFOA bound to plasma proteins in the blood and therefore circulated through every organ in the body. By the 1970’s DuPont discovered that workers in its Washington, WV plant had high concentrations of the chemical in their blood, yet they still did not disclose this information to the EPA.

In 1981 3M, still supplying PFOA to DuPont, found that ingestion of PFOA caused birth defects in rats. After learning this, DuPont tested the children born to pregnant employees who had worked in the Teflon division, and found that two of the seven children had eye defects.

In 1984, DuPont became aware that PFOA was present in the local water supply, and unsurprisingly, they didn’t tell anyone. They did however, understand that it shouldn’t contaminate their own water, and in 1991 the company put an internal safety limit for PFOA in their drinking water to one part per billion.

That same year DuPont found that a nearby district’s water supply contained three times that figure, and though the issue was debated within the company, they decided against making this information public.

DuPont later claimed that they did provide this information to the EPA. Their proof was copies of two letters from 1982 and 1992, sent to government agencies in West Virginia, and they both cited company studies as reasons why PFOA was not a concern.

Still, by the 1990s DuPont knew that the chemical caused cancerous tumors in the testes, pancreases, and livers of lab animals, and there was even evidence of human DNA damage and links to prostate cancer in workers exposed to PFOA.

By 1993 DuPont realized there was a need for an alternative, and even though a suitable substance was found, the company ultimately decided against it. It didn’t seem worth it to risk the $1 billion of profit they acquired each year from products produced with PFOA.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, in the late 1980s DuPont began dumping thousands of tons of PFOA sludge into a landfill near their Washington, WV plant. The runoff from this landfill, contaminated the water of a nearby cattle ranch owned by Wilbur Tennant.

Dozens of Mr. Tennant’s cattle became strangely ill. Many died, and when they were dissected he noticed that their organs were enlarged and discolored.

Veterinarians and local authorities had few explanations, but Mr. Tennant suspected the nearby landfill. In the late 1990s, he sought out the help of Rob Billot, an attorney specializing in environmental law.

After months of sifting through documents, Billot disclosed DuPont’s crimes to the EPA in 2001, via a 972 page letter. The company was taken to court, and the result was 16.5 million dollar settlement to the EPA in 2005.

This was the largest settlement in EPA history, however the fine equaled less than 2% of the profits DuPont had earned that year on products made with or from PFOA.

A class-action lawsuit followed which was settled in September of 2004. DuPont agreed to install water filtration systems in the six contaminated water districts near its plant as well as pay $70 million for research.

The money went to fund a study to determine if there was a “probable link” between PFOA and any negative health symptoms. If the link was established, DuPont would have to pay for medical monitoring of any person affected until his or her death.

Seven years later, in December 2011, the results were released: there was a probable link between PFOA and testicular cancer, kidney cancer, high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia, ulcerative colitis, and thyroid disease.

EPA Response

Water

The realization of PFOA potential side effects led the EPA to began its own research. In 2002 it released its initial finding which concluded that PFOA was a danger to the general public. (15)

By 2003 they found that the average concentration of PFOA in the blood of adult americans was 4-5 parts per billion. That’s 4-5 times the concentration DuPont recommended its own water supply have. (15)

The EPA has determined that C8 contaminated the drinking water for more than 6.5 million people in 27 different states. Toxicologists hired by Bilott suggested that PFOA concentrations in water be no greater than 0.2 parts per billion. (11, 15)

In early 2009 the EPA released Provisional Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS which recommended that PFOA levels not be above 0.4 µg/L (micrograms per liter) or 0.4 parts per billion, and that PFOS not be above 0.2 µg/L.4

However, these advisories are not legally enforceable and therefore local water districts don’t have to disclose to their customers if their water is contaminated with PFOA. This should change soon, as the EPA has claimed that they will announce a permanent regulation for PFOA by early 2016. (15)

Corporate Regulations

In 2006 the EPA agreed to a stewardship program which allowed 8 companies to voluntarily phase out their use of PFOA by 95% by 2010, and eliminate it completely by 2015. 3M did so in 2000, and DuPont ceased production in 2013. (4)

The five other global companies which use or produce PFOA are phasing it out. As a result of these efforts, the serum concentration of PFOA in the average American has decreased significantly.

FDA Response

The Food and Drug Administration has taken fewer steps to protect us than the EPA. In January 2016 the FDA banned three C8 PFCs from use in food packaging like microwave popcorn bags, sandwich wrappers, and pizza boxes. (11)

While this may seem like good news, those PFCs had already been phased out of production, and were not the PFCs currently in use. Instead, food companies are using short-chain PFCs.

The Problem with Short Chain PFCs

Short-chain PFCs have seven or less carbon atoms. They have been proven to be less persistent, but their long term health effects have not been well studied. (15)

In fact, in May 2015, 200 scientists signed the Madrid Statement- a document which expresses their concern about the health effects of all PFCs. According to the statement, new research has shown that even low doses of PFCs can negatively impact health. The scientists recommend that nations should create legislation which would eliminate all but those PFCs deemed necessary, and “wherever possible avoid products containing, or manufactured using, (PFCs including) many products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick.”

How to Avoid PFCs

So we now know that everyone has PFCs in their blood, so what can you do to limit any further contamination?

1. Avoid Products Labeled Nonstick, Waterproof, Stain Resistant, & Water Resistant.

2. Avoid Fast-Food and Disposable Food Packaging

  • Another reason to avoid fast food! PFCs are often added to disposable paper food packaging to make it more resistant to grease and water. (3)
  • Making real food a priority, especially when traveling, sometimes means relying on disposable plates and bowls. Opt for non toxic alternatives like chemical free compostable paper plates, compostable cutlery, and PFC free compostable paper cups.
  • If you eat popcorn, pop your own popcorn on the stove, and avoid the short-chain PFCs found in the microwavable bags.

3. Choose Personal Care Products Without PTFE or Perfluoro Ingredients

4. Add a Water Filtration System for Your Home

  • This will not only filter out PFCs, but other unwanted substances such as heavy metals, fluoride, and chlorine. There are many options to fit your home and living situation. Check out this post for more information and my review of an under counter water filter.

A Note on Non-Toxic Perfectionism

While the above information is concerning, I hope that by posting it, I am providing you with knowledge that will help you take control of your family’s health. Please think of this as empowering information, not another thing to worry about.

It’s certainly easy to feel overwhelmed with the chemicals found in plastics, or in antibacterial soaps, and now even in our clothes and water, but please know that stress is probably more toxic than many chemicals. In today’s world it is impossible to live a 100% perfectly clean, non-toxic lifestyle. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Even small steps to reduce your exposure to toxins will make a difference!

Sources:
1. Environmental Working Group. “PFC Dictionary”.
2. Environmental Working Group. “Healthy Home Tips: Tip 6- Skip the Non-Stick to Avoid the Dangers of Teflon.”
3. Environmental Working Group. “ EWG’s Guide to Avoiding PFCs: A Family of Chemicals You Don’t Want Near Your Family.”
4. American Cancer Society. “Teflon and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).” November 6, 2013.
5. ABC News. “Can Non-Stick Make You Sick?” Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonda; and Sauer, Maddie. November 14, 2003.
6. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)”. September 2012.
7. Environmental Protection Agency. “Biomonitoring: Perfluorochemicals PFCs” September 15, 2016.
8. Environmental Protection Agency. “EPA Settles PFOA Case Against DuPont for Largest Environmental Administrative Penalty in Agency History.” December 14, 2005.
9. Environmental Working Group. “Poisoned Legacy: Where Consumers Encounter PFC’s Today.” May 1, 2015.
10. Environmental Working Group. Malik, Logan. “Great Lakes Gull Eggs Contaminated by Non-Stick Chemicals.” January 14, 2016.
11. Environmental Working Group. “FDA ban Three Toxic Chemicals From Food Wrapping – Too Little, Too Late” January 4, 2016.
12. Minnesota Department of Health. “Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) and Health” March 2015.
13. Chemical Watch. “Perfluorinated Chemicals: A persistent problem” May 2012.
14. Pierce, Lena; Staude, Claudia; Biegel-Engler, Annegret; Drost, Wiebke; Schulte, Christoph. Environmental Sciences Europe. “Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) main concerns and regulatory developments in Europe from an Environmental Point of View.” 7 May 2012.
15. Rich, Nathaniel. The New York Times. “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” January 6, 2016.
16. Blum, A, Balan, SA, Scherzinger M, Trier X, Coldenman G, Cousins IT, Diamond M, Fletcher T, Higgins C, Lindeman AE, Peaslee G, de Voogt P, Wang Z, Weber R. 1 May 2015. The Madrid Statement on Poly-and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs). Environ Health Perspect 123:A107-A11;

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Reader Comments

  1. Katie thank you so much for adding in “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Even small steps to reduce your exposure to toxins will make a difference. Do the best you can, which I bet is already pretty great.” I am absolutely overwhelmed with trying to make my home, beauty / health products, cooking choices, supplements, and environment as healthy and non toxic as possible. I am super new to this life style, beginning of 2016 new and it’s tough for me to resist overhauling everything!!! 😉 Do you have any tips on how to not get overwhelmed? I’ve switched out pans for cast iron & stainless steel as well as clay and glass, gone to glass tupperware, put a water filter on the shower, started diffusing essential oils, buy organic locally sourced, grass fed meats and organic vegetables, make my own cleaning products, laundry detergent, body wash and soap… but every time I see something like this it adds to the list- I’m going “okay I need to get rid of my columbia jacket, and step up my water filter game” (I ordered the Aquasana but saw that the Radiant Life filter is a lot better and what you recommend) so I am going to send that back and buy a Berkey on the counter for now and save up for Radiant Life. The Intellibed mattress is something we can save up for as well. I haven’t even dove into the electromagnetic radiation side of things… Yes any advice on not getting overwhelmed would be awesome and if you have a post on it feel free to direct me to it 🙂

    • I found it was helpful just to have a plan of when I would be able to implement things. I just kept a running list in my planner of things I want to add or change, which takes away the mental stress of trying to remember them all. And some of the most important things (sleep, stress reduction, sunshine) are free, so focus on those first 🙂 Good luck!

      • Thank you that is super helpful! Great idea and getting sunshine is definitely something I need to phase in!

  2. Thank you for exposing something we all need to be aware of. Money is buying our health and it gets worse by the day. I have never wanted to believe this possible, but I see it more and more – and people like you have the guts to expose it- and explain it well. It is a sad truth and all the more reason to take your health and well being into your own hands. There is not one medicine and not only one way of treating just about anything. I have lived in 4 countries and seen how each culture looks at health and treatments, luckily I have two very capable physicians of high standing in acupuncture and homeopathy. I am still around because I “looked outside the box” and consulted doctors who were not allopathic, our “normal” medicine that had no answer to what was wrong with me – 25 years ago. I no longer trust the FDA, EPA or any of the government sanctioned “authorities” they seem to be on the wrong side these days and run by big big money Thank you.

  3. All this info can be overwhelming but many times just a few small steps can go a long way towards protecting yourself and your family. Clean water is so important. We recently moved from an area with well water to one with city water. I researched many options for cleaning the water coming into our home and decided on a whole house filter with additional R/O drinking water filter. It was not cheap and we are not wealthy but many companies have payment plans to make it easier. Thanks for the info.

  4. It is so sad to hear that big bisnesses would rather pay a large fine in dumping toxins into water bodies, than spend more money safely disposing of them. Fines should exceed the cost of proper disposal and these companies aught to be boycotted. Only thing is that the public isnt aware of this to do so. Thank you for bringing awareness and reminding me!

  5. I’m phasing out my non-stick pans for cast iron or stainless steel. Also, cutting down on plastics. Have you found any equivalent for Saran Wrap? I bought Beeswrap which works on some vegetables. Glass containers replace plastic containers but what about sandwich bags and oddly shaped items. What can we use?

    • Working on a post about this, but there are silicone bags and containers that work well. I’ve also found silicon air-tight tops for bowls…

  6. What is your decision on brands of essential oils? I know you use mountain rose but is there any ideas on other brands? I wanted to buy more this spring but I’m trying to get the best for our money. Like blends, we are Low income. Let me know what you think. A friend told me about plant therapy, I use young living it’s not cheap, I’m wanting something safe enough for internal and topical use for children. Organic and therapeutic. Thanks

    • I personally stick with MRH but plant therapy has some good blends that are relatively inexpensive.

  7. Does PUL fabric,that they use for cloth diapers, have these chemicals in it as well?

  8. It is so true that we can no longer live without the risk of exposure to chemicals. The key to not panicking over the effects of chemicals is to just keep doing all the right things you were always doing and implement new changes where practical, and feel good about what you are doing! That , IMO, works better than the worrying and of course works better than doing nothing! I understand that chelation therapy works for getting rid of heavy metals in the body, I am wondering if it works for PFC’s as well. I am not a religious “detoxer”, as I believe we can gradually get rid of toxins just by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and doing a bunch of little things right. But I am curious nonetheless.

  9. Sadly the same exact thing is going on right now in Hoosick Falls, NY.

  10. This is a very helpful article! My favorite part is the end, where you advise not to over-stress about being perfect with these things. I am someone who was in a wheelchair due to heavy metal/toxin poisoning. I have done so much to get metals and chemicals out of our household, but yes, I do start to stress about not being able to get it all out. And yes, I am now out of the wheelchair and walking 2 miles or more due to my detox program as well as figuring out my methylation cycle. But there is a balance, for sure! Thanks for all that you do!!

  11. Hi Katie,
    I SO enjoy your blog. This is a great post also. With the little free time I do have, this is what I love reading. I remember you sharing that part of being able to do so much research is that you learned to speed read. Would you ever share tips or a how-to for a future post?
    Thanks!

  12. That’s why I want to buy my own land oneday, so I can grow my own foods and make my own home remedies and beauty products, I’m from London and I’m planning to move abroad to Finland as I want to be more in touch with nature as i’m sick of living in the city but i’m 29 and i’m still trying to find my land, so I might travel to other countries in the furture, it’s the only way really to free your self from the system.
    If everyone brought their own land, most of the big corporations will calaspe, and everyone will still have their land and be self sustainable.
    Thanks you for the info on this site.

  13. I understand ones frustration with the EPA… The EPA’S effectiveness was reduced to practically non existent- during the Bush administration…

    I am now hearing of more during the Clinton Administration and i watch/hear, certain ‘health’ laws transformed and reduced under our current president- Obama…

    Because big corporations now rule this country, not our presidents… So the FDA and the USDA are being attacked and nullified in the same way…

    We the consumer, the majority are unaware…

    It’s a shame that healthy or healthier things cost so much…

    What is called cheap or affordable is for the disappearing middle class…

    I’ve discovered pots lined with non stick ceramic… They exist… Buying things to replace all the plastic in my home… For me i would have to choose one a month…

    There are water bottles, food utensils like flippers & mixing spoons, my mixing bowl is plastic, i only have 1 the other two are part storage containers as well, refused ice cream tubs… Plastic… That is affordable for me…

    Food… I’m trying to change… Is more expensive, have to keep buying them for that are perishable…

    I wish there was an organization that gave away things all of you take for granted,… To people like myself who are truly under the poverty line…

    I’m realizing the fatigue i have, etc, that prevents me from working… May very well be caused by all these poisons in my home…

    In my food… It’s been many years I’ve not worked, i would love to be able too…i look forward to it…

    I’m grateful for you showing awareness on this topic… I grew up with this knowledge and took it for granted… Now i suffer from trying to work hard and eat quickly…

    May you and your children be blessed…

    • Ohhh, Aneesah, my heart goes out to you. We need not worry about so many things at once. I was sick a few years ago, and thought I would never get over it. I tell you this, and it is the truth. I do grow as much as I can, but I still use plastic and I live in a plastic house. BUT I discovered there are 5 absolutely free things and they are the most important in all good health and recovery from sickness: (All the things your mama told you)

      1. Fresh air – If you are shut up even in -40, open your windows once in a while. Also if you have green things, plants, growing in your home, they will naturally clean the air for you-free!
      2. Exercise- I hate it, but a 20 min walk with the dogs, a friend or your family, or puttering in the yard is exercise too (plus fresh air)
      3. Water, water water- reduces pain (helped my husbands arthritis pain go from about 9 to 3 on 1-10 scale), improves your memory, and so many other things too numerous to mention. Even if it is city water, drinking it is better than drinking nothing.
      4. Sunshine – goes along with fresh air, only 20 minutes of full exposure will help you get your daily Vitamin D.
      5. Sleep-makes such a huge difference in your health and recovery from sickness.

      We take these precious things for granted and do not take them seriously enough. Don’t go all crazy over the plastics and stuff. Start with the free things and have faith, you will be healthier, my dear.

      • Thank you! YOU ARE SO RIGHT! I didn’t expect to get the response I received from you, I am doubly grateful for it!

        My momma didn’t tell me or raise me on these principles…

        Right on time for these words to penetrate to heart! Again, thank you so ever much for your kind words, your loving words.

  14. Thank you, Kaite for your informant post about these toxins. We hear bits in the news through out our lives and see some cases exposed in Hollywood movies using popular stars and then we pay attention. And hope that our ‘town’ is not one of the ones contaminated. I grew up in a small city in Virginia. My dad proudly worked for DuPont. I remember vividly holding my nose when we dropped him off, the smell was so bad and seeing neon yellow green waste floating in the river next to the plant. We crossed a bridge not far from my friend’s home as we exited the plant and I would look down into that eerie waterway and wonder where that glow in the dark slime came from. The catch and release fish my brother and I caught from that river had a neon glow inside. It made me sad to think they didn’t have a better place to live. It does hit home. It’s all our home. That water flowed through many towns and cities after ours. And onto other states in the south. That plant closed. But much much later. I’m far away from there now. But the memory of that blatant carelessness and disregard gives me chills. I’m grateful for the exposure. Awareness is power. Drawing back the curtain takes courage. Thank you for helping us take charge!

  15. You mention switching to silicone products in one of the comments. My husband is doing a heavy metal detox protocol right now. One of the metals coming out is platinum. The doctor is perplexed about how he got so much platinum. They only see levels like his from people who have worked in a factory where they use platinum. So we started to do some research. We found out that catalysts used to cure things contain platinum. One of the products that uses a platinum catalyst to cure it is silicone. We have found conflicting studies about whether silicone products leach platinum and other chemicals when we use those products. Breast implants have been a big part of the studies done. But some European studies are starting to show that leaching of platinum and other chemicals are occurring from silicone bake ware when it is heated above 150 degrees. Thomas Talcott, a former engineer at Dow Corning who worked on the development of breast implants, stated in an interview that silicone contains chemicals that are toxic to the human body. That whenever you have a silicone product exposed to any duration of friction, heat, and moisture from the human body it will break down. This could take a few months or years. The appears to be why breast implants break down and burst in the body. The question is what are we exposing our babies to with silicone baby nipples, teething rings and other products they put in their mouths. Does the silicone bake ware leach chemicals into our food just like Teflon? Just like you mention in this article the EPA does not act to protect us. We don’t know whether living near a BSAF plant that produced platinum catalysts exposed my husband to this toxicity through water or soil contamination or if it came from products he has used over the years. It could be both. We did find out from one study that platinum poisoning is a known thing. That the symptoms include a severe allergy response by the body to everything. You become allergic to foods and everything in the environment. So as things progress you get chemical sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, and even cancer. After 20 years of battling health issues, hopefully we are fixing another piece of the puzzle to help him get well!