27 February 2017


Most of us have the sense that fast food is not the best for us. But did you know that what is in the wrapping around fast food maybe even more dangerous? Kidney disease, cancers, hormone problems, high cholesterol, obesity and immune suppression are all implicated, but worse, the chemicals involved are widely used.

So this week, details of our new website plus what you need to know about PFCs and PFASs to avoid serious risks, but first

         Thought for the day

Every acute symptom you experience is a protest;
Your body demanding some change be made.

Commonly, these symptoms are regarded 
As enemies to be suppressed.

However, symptoms can be regarded as allies
That are pointing to positive change.

Respect your body’s protest
And couple it with its innate ability to heal itself.

Greg Fitzgerald, Naturopath and Chiropractor

PFCs - What are they and what is the problem? 

Perfluorinated Compounds or PFCs are a group of man-made fluorinated chemicals produced commercially since the 1950s. They are also referred to as PFASs which stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.

PFCs are highly persistent synthetic chemicals, some of which have been associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, kidney disease and other health effects.

PFCs first came to prominence with one of them, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) being the key ingredient in Scotchgard, the fabric protector made by 3M. Then PFOS and numerous other PFCs were developed for a wide variety of stain and water repellant products used in clothing, carpets and car interiors, as well as non-stick cookware, cooking products like grease-proof paper, and fire-fighting foams.

Two PFCs - PFOS and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) have been shown to be particularly toxic and very persistent, posing a global contamination problem. They are classified as long term, persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in animal and human bodies. To quote a 2016 assessment of risk :

Based on the persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity in mammals including humans and widespread occurrence in environmental compartments, it is concluded that PFOA, its salts and related compounds are likely, as a result of their long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects such that global action is warranted.” (Reference below)

How do we become exposed to PFCs or PFASs? 
From direct contact with any of the products containing it, through the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. PFASs in grease-resistant food packaging can leach into food and increase dietary exposure.

What did this US study reveal?
In the USA, one-third of fast food packaging contains PFASs.

“Our study is the most comprehensive assessment of how common fluorinated chemicals are in fast food wrappers in the U.S., and which types of wrappers are most likely to contain them,” said lead study author Laurel Schaider of the Silent Spring Institute.

“We found that nearly half of paper wrappers, for instance wrappers for sandwiches and burgers and flat bags for cookies and pastries, contained fluorinated chemicals, and that around 20% of paperboard packaging, for instance boxes for French fries and fried foods, contained fluorinated chemicals.”

                                              Not sure what is in your wrapper? Your cup? You need to ask...

Tests of 30 samples from paper cups did not turn up any of these chemicals. But in tests of 25 other beverage containers, 16% did have PFASs.

Researchers also did more extensive testing on a subset of 20 samples to see what types of PFASs were in the food packaging. Six of these samples contained a type of PFASs called PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, or C8) that many U.S. manufacturers voluntarily stopped using in 2011 due to concerns about the potential health risks.

The research revealed that even chemicals supposed to be in the process of being phased out due to health concerns are still widely used said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, environmental medicine researcher at New York University School of Medicine.

What is happening in Australia?
There is a growing level of deep concern about PFCs in general. It is highly recommended to read the linked paper below from which is quoted :

“Australian citizens have both PFOS and PFOA in their blood, urine and breast milk. Recent research suggests that PFOS concentrations at current population levels may already be causing adverse health impacts, in particular thyroid disease, endocrine impacts in women and immunotoxicity.

As PFOS and PFOA do not break down, are passed from one generation to the next via breast milk and in utero, and have in some cases demonstrated changes in gene expression at very low levels, it is possible that like lead and mercury, there may be no safe level of exposure to PFOS and /or PFOA.”

It seems there have been no specific studies done on the usage of PFCs in the Australian fast food industry, but we need to be alert to their use across the community and the ongoing serious pollution resulting from widespread use of these chemicals in fire retardants.

What to do?
Obviously, avoiding fast food eliminates the particular problem we have focused upon here.

When wrapping food, always use old fashioned baking paper or parchment instead of grease-resistant wrappers typically used in food packaging that these days may contain nasty chemicals. Even old fashioned grease proof paper is not ideal as it is commonly coated in paraffin that is petroleum based and not good to have in contact with food. Baking paper or parchment is simply paper that has been processed to make it dense and resistant to moisture etc, so it is OK.

Xindi Hu, an environmental health researcher at Harvard School of Public Health says that whenever possible, avoid disposable packaging altogether. Again, there are obvious environmental benefits to this, but your health could thank you as well.

Then there is the need to avoid carpet, clothing and cookware that contain these chemicals. Be very thorough in your investigations before purchase!

1. Shalder LA et al, Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging
 Environmental Science and Technology Letters, online February 1, 2017.

2. The Persistence and Toxicity of Perfluorinated Compounds in Australia – National Toxics Network

Please do check this out…

Many thanks to my new PA Joanna and the team who worked on this project.

Collectively we hope it makes access to our material easier and that sections like the Recommendations are really helpful.

Speaking personally, I enjoy having a health related website that is not laden with waivers or cautions but goes directly to Recommendations. Maybe you will find something useful amidst the advice on meditation, nutrition, healing or wellness??? Go to the website...

Comments welcome below…, and if you do happen to find a typo, please let us know

COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation

March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.

April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest

This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond
For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness? It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.


  1. Thank you for this information. How is it possible that our governments allow these products to be so readily used in packaging? It is very useful to be better informed so that we can avoid these products as much as we can. Keep up the good work.

    1. I agree Cathy - seems extra-ordinary that these products continue to be available. It seems commercial forces and the public's sense of convenience -what seems on the surface to be a simple answer to a problem like waterproofing wrappers - takes precedence over public health. Fortunately, if we pay attention and read labels, we have some chance of being OK, but these products are in/on so many things....