The Guardian reports that coffee, white rice and eggs are linked to higher levels PFAS.

A new study that aimed to identify foods with higher levels of PFAS in them found that people who consume more white rice and coffee, and eat more eggs, seafood, and white rice showed a greater amount of these toxic chemicals both in their breast milk and plasma.

The study examined samples taken from 3,000 mothers and was among the first to indicate that coffee and white-rice may be more contaminated than other foods. The study also found a link between consumption of red meat and PFOS levels, which is one of the most dangerous PFAS chemicals.

The findings of the authors highlight the ubiquity of chemicals and their many possible ways to end up in food.

Megan Romano is a Dartmouth researcher who was the lead author. “The results clearly point towards the need for environmental stewardship and keeping PFAS away from the environment and the food chain,” she said. “We’re now in a situation that they are everywhere and will stick around, even if aggressive remediation is done.”

The PFAS class is made up of approximately 16,000 compounds that are used in the manufacture of products resistant to water, heat and stains. The chemicals are known as “forever chemical” because they don’t naturally degrade and accumulate in the human body. These chemicals have been linked to cancers, birth defects and thyroid diseases, as well as liver disease, thyroid problems, and other serious health issues.

Food is the most common route of exposure, even though regulators are focused on water pollution. The Food and Drug Administration has been criticized by some for failing to protect the country’s food supply. Amongst other controversies it changed its testing methods in order to appear that the food they test does not contain PFAS when it contains what many advocates claim are worrying levels.

Food can be contaminated by PFAS in a variety of ways. Researchers suspect that the rice contamination is due to soil or water contaminated by agricultural practices. The chemicals are also found in non-stick cookware or could be present in the water used to prepare food.

Researchers found that backyard chickens produced higher levels of PFAS in their eggs. Romano suggested this could be due to the fact that they were fed more table scraps. The sludge contaminated with PFAS, which is used to replace fertilizer at a lower cost, can also contaminate soil that chickens eat. It has even been shown to pollute beef. Chemicals could also be found in bird feed.

Researchers suspect that soil, coffee beans, and water used to brew the coffee could all be contaminated. In previous research, researchers found that coffee filters were treated with PFAS. Paper cups and other food packaging are also known to contain the chemicals.

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Because water pollution is so prevalent, seafood has been found to contain PFAS.

Public health advocates believe that a complete ban of the chemicals, except for their essential uses, is the best way to address the issue. Romano stated that the research showed diets rich in fruits, whole grains, and higher fiber intake were associated with lower PFAS levels. He also said eating a variety of foods so one source of protein does not make up too much of your diet is beneficial.

Romano: “This helps reduce exposure not only to PFAS, but also other contaminants that we may anticipate being in food.”