PFAS, perfluoroalkyl substances which include perfluoroacrylic acids and which are also called “forever chemicals”, they are practically everywhere, and even in our homes. And if you do an online search for PFAS, too only among certain and certified newsyou can realize how much can be harmful to our health. According to theEuropean Environment Agency I am they are extremely persistent in our environment and organism and can have adverse health effects such as liver damage, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility problems and cancer.
Over 12,000 forms of PFAS recognized in the environment
The last alarm is the one relating to presence of PFAS even in the drinking water that comes out of the tapbut the over 4700 perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances can also be found in numerous objects and products that are at our side at home, from non-stick pans, to waterproof clothing and shoes, up to some food packaging.
The US EPA has recognized it over more than 12,000 forms of these persistent chemicals linked to a long list of health effectsincluding reduced fertility, high blood pressure in pregnant people, increased risk of certain types of cancer, developmental delays and low birth weight in children, hormonal changes, high cholesterol, reducing the effectiveness of the immune system and more.
PFAS are present in an incalculable number of products, from clothing to furniture, from pizza boxes to food wrappers, from kitchen utensils to electronics, from firefighting foam to shoes and much more. Chemicals are used to make pots and pans nonstick, fabrics more durable and stain resistant, food packaging resistant to grease, shoes and clothes water resistant, and paper and cardboard more durable, as well as numerous other uses. The PFAS load on the planet is so widespread that, according to a 2022 study published in Environmental Science and Technology, the chemicals actually fall from the sky as rain: Clouds have picked up PFAS in water evaporating from contaminated oceans.
Your house is full of PFAS, and you need to start dealing with it
For most people, however, daily life inside their homes is where they are most likely to encounter PFAS on a regular basis. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some personal items and parts of our home that could expose us to these chemicals forever.
Body care products, including shampoo, dental floss, toilet paper, sanitary pads and tampons
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that many brands in these product categories contained or still contain PFAS, which are added to products because these chemicals make them more durable, water resistant, or smoother. . But dental floss, shampoo, pads or tampons are used in the mouth, near the eyes or in intimate organs, mucous membranes that easily absorb contaminants. Many brands now claim to be PFAS-free, and the number of such products is increasing: always check the label when purchasing.
One from the University of Florida found traces of PFAS even in toilet paper, which again has something to do with mucous membranes in addition to the fact that toilet paper is disposed of in wastewater which ends up contaminated, introducing PFAS into the water cycle .
Beauty products, including nail polish and eye makeup
Nail polish can release stray PFAS into your mouth when you eat or bite your nails, while mascara is applied directly to the area around your eyes, contaminating them as contact lenses do.
You handle them all day and they are full of PFAS. You may not touch the circuit boards, semiconductors, and insulated cables that use PFAS, but you definitely touch the screen, which has a PFAS coating to resist fingerprints. The bad news is that it’s not just mucous membranes that can collect PFAS. A 2020 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology determined that PFAS molecules can be absorbed through the skin.
This is especially true for shorter-chain PFAS molecules, which infiltrate the surface of the skin and ultimately into the bloodstream more efficiently than longer-chain ones.
They are soft, comfortable and you spend an average of eight hours a day lying on them, separated only by a sheet. If PFAS chemicals can penetrate the skin, they are likely to be small enough to pass through the pores of a bed sheet. It’s the stain and moisture resistance that PFAS offer that explains what they do in mattress protectors.
It’s tough, it’s water resistant and it lasts over time. This is the selling point of PFAS. Last year one study from Duke University found the presence of PFAS in six of the 10 most popular paint brands sampled. The study also determined that some brands had off-gassing of PFAS, which reduces the overall concentration of the chemical in the paint on the wall but disperses it into the air, where it can be inhaled.
If PFAS enters your home through furniture, fabrics, electronics, personal care products and more – and they do – they won’t stay put. Especially fabrics are known spreaders of PFAS into the air and what enters the air enters the lungs.
A study study conducted last year by researchers from Yale University and published in Current Environmental Health Reportssampled homes, workplaces and child care centers and found that PFAS were ubiquitous in both the air and on surfaces.
A simple solution is to keep your home as clean as possible, especially if you have young children, because children are much more vulnerable to these persistent chemicals than adults are.
Many rugs, like bathroom rugs, are designed to be stain and water resistant, and the chemicals used to give them these properties are full of PFAS. According to a Washington State Department of Health report, up to 90% of commercial carpets tested had detectable levels of PFAS.
All types of food packaging, from plastic to grease-proof paper to pizza boxes, are full of PFAS, and what gets into the packaging can make its way into the food.
Many consumers are aware that food packaging can be problematic, but what they may not know is the risk posed to fresh foods, such as fish and dairy products. PFAS pollution is widespread in both oceans and freshwater lakes and rivers, where it easily contaminates fish flesh.
Regarding dairy products, milk and cheese from supermarkets may collect PFAS from the plastic bottles or plastic-coated paper in which they are packaged.
Yoga pants and sports bras
Women’s sportswear would also contain PFAS, particularly in the crotch area and anywhere where moisture needs to be controlled. Many sports bras also show the presence of PFAS, especially in the nipple area.
Other household products
The list of objects containing PFAS in the home also includes plumber’s tape (by definition, it must be waterproof and PFAS provide this characteristic), guitar strings (PFAS function as so-called elastomers, providing elasticity and resilience), candy wrappers (PFAS prevent candy from sticking to plastic), bicycle chain lube (PFAS repel dirt and water and reduce friction), microwave popcorn bags (PFAS make non-stick paper), dishwasher and laundry detergent (PFAS help break down grease). And so on.
Of course, not all brands of these items necessarily contain the same chemicals. If the presence of PFAS worries you, you can check the labels at the time of purchase, find out more on the websites of the manufacturing brands or on independent databases such as the data HUB at PFAS Central.
After all, these lifelong chemicals are already and will always be with us, so the best thing to do now is to eliminate them from products as quickly as possible and stop making the problem worse.
READ ALSO: Why you should only buy PFAS free clothing