Are You Aware Of Your Level of PFAS Exposure Through Everyday Items?
PFAS chemicals found in much more than your drinking water
PFAS are a class of human-made chemicals which includes Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are very long-lived chemicals, so they remain in the environment, in humans and wildlife for a very long time. Two of these chemicals, PFOA and PFOS are relatively well known. Manufacturers have voluntarily stopped producing them. However, PFAS continues to be detected at contamination sites, in water, and in our bodies. Here is some proof of PFAS exposure.
- PFOA is found in the blood of most Americans at low levels.
- PFAS pollution has been documented at 94 sites in 22 states (including industrial plants, military bases, airports and fire training sites) and in the tap water of up to 16 million people in 33 states.
There may be as many as 4,000 other PFAS chemicals, and we know less about where they are made, what they are used for, water contamination or other presence in the environment, their health effects, and in most cases how to detect them.
At high enough levels, some of these chemicals can have serious health effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including decreased fertility, hormonal changes, increased cholesterol, weakened immune system response, increased cancer risk, and growth and learning delays in infants and children.
In response to this emerging contaminant all of us here at Secondwind intensified our focus and expanded our expertise in treating drinking water for PFAS. We’ve written quite a bit about it over the last few years.
PFAS Exposure Through Everyday Items
There are many ways beyond soil, groundwater and drinking water contamination that people become exposed to these harmful chemicals. In fact, they can be found in many everyday products.
- Food packaging containing PFAS can potentially transmit PFAS to the food in the packaging, which we eat.
- Products like carpeting, clothing, and packaging materials can contain PFAS.
- Personal care products can expose our skin to the chemicals.
PFAS chemicals are widely used to coat paper and cardboard wrappers for fast food and bakery goods. Many fast food chains still use food wrappers, bags and boxes coated with the grease-resistant compounds, according to nationwide tests as reported by Environmental Working Group. Some of the test samples detected traces of a notorious PFC, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, that was taken off the market after it was linked to cancer, and reproductive and developmental harm.
Scientists tested samples of sandwich and pastry wrappers, french fry bags, pizza boxes, and other paper and paperboard from 27 fast food chains and several local restaurants in five regions of the U.S. They found that of the 327 samples used to serve food, 40 percent tested positive for fluorine.
According to the study, exposure to PFASs from fast food packaging is especially relevant for children, because one-third of U.S. children consume fast food daily and children may be more susceptible to the adverse health effects.
Carpeting, Clothing, Furniture
When PFAS are used in products such as stain proofing for furniture and carpets, or waterproofing for clothing, these items become ‘PFAS factories,’ releasing the chemicals over time into air and dust.
Carpets and rugs cover nearly half of all U.S. homes and workplaces. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has identified carpets and rugs as the largest potential sources of significant and widespread PFAS exposures, especially for children.
The U.S. carpet industry transitioned away from its use of PFOS, PFOA and other so-called long-chain PFAS chemicals in 2008. But they’ve been replaced by a new generation of “short-chain” chemicals in this class that have many of the same potential health concerns. In September of this year, Home Depot announced that they will no longer sell carpeting that contains these chemicals. More companies are expected to follow this example in the future.
A variety of PFCs are applied in water-, soil-, and stain-resistant coatings for clothing and upholstery.
Personal Care Products And PFAS Exposure
In research done by the Environmental Working Group, they identified 13 different PFAS chemicals in nearly 200 personal care products from 28 brands. Not only in makeup, PFASs were also found in sunscreen, shampoo and shaving cream. This includes some children’s products including toothpaste, sunscreen, shampoo, and conditioner.
Absorption of these chemicals through skin is not expected to be a significant route of exposure, but when used on or around the eyes, absorption can increase, posing a greater hazard. There may also be significant variation in absorption depending on the type of PFAS used in the products, and the other PFAS chemicals present. In the end, the science is out, and we don’t yet know the true ramifications of this exposure.
So how can you reduce your PFAS exposure?
- Watch for packaged foods. Stay away from greasy or oily packaged and fast foods, as the packages often contain grease-repellent coatings. Examples include microwave popcorn bags, french fry boxes, and pizza boxes.
- Avoid stain-resistance treatments. Choose furniture and carpets that aren’t marketed as “stain-resistant,” and don’t apply finishing treatments such as Stainmaster® to these or other items. Where possible, choose alternatives to clothing that has been treated for water or stain resistance, such as outerwear and sportswear. Other products that may be treated include shoes, luggage, and camping and sporting equipment.
- Check your personal-care products. Avoid personal-care products made with Teflon™ or containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or ”perfluoro.” PFCs can be found in dental floss and a variety of cosmetics, including nail polish, facial moisturizers, and eye make-up. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep guide to cosmetics is a great place to look up your products.
- Avoid Teflon™ or non-stick cookware. If you choose to continue using non-stick cookware, be careful not to let it heat to above 450ºF. Do not leave non-stick cookware unattended on the stove, or use non-stick cookware in hot ovens or grills. Discard products if non-stick coatings show signs of deterioration.
- Avoid furniture and carpets that are marketed as “stain-resistant,” and don’t apply finishing treatments such as Stainmaster.® Where possible, choose alternatives to outerwear and sportswear that has been treated for water or stain resistance.
- Personal-care products containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or ”perfluoro.” PFCs can be found in dental floss, nail polish, facial moisturizers, and eye make-up.
- Don’t buy non-stick cookware.
- Treat your water – and not just your drinking water – for PFAS.
Secondwind Water Systems is committed to helping you and your family reduce your PFAS exposure.
If you don’t know if you have PFOA/PFOS in your water, contact us today and we’ll send one of our friendly and knowledgeable Certified Water Specialist to test it. Once the results are in we will discuss treatment options with you.