What products contain PFAS?
PFAS exposure is a hot topic, with many consumers asking, what products contain PFAS? PFAS chemicals are found in many more places than your drinking water. Learn more in our report, Top 5 Things NH Residents Should Know about PFAS and Drinking Water.
PFAS are a class of human-made chemicals which includes Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are long-living chemicals, and they remain in the environment, in humans and in wildlife indefinitely. Two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, are relatively well known. Some manufacturers have voluntarily stopped producing them. However, PFAS continues to be detected at contamination sites, in water, and in our bodies. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, PFAS has been detected in multiple locations throughout New Hampshire. (link to a new article below)
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), peer reviewed studies found that exposure to PFAS at certain levels may lead to increased risk of some cancers, developmental delays in children, decreased fertility in women, and increased cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, PFAS have been found in many of New Hampshire’s drinking water supplies. (link to a new article below)
What products contain PFAS?
Beyond soil, groundwater and drinking water contamination, there are multiple ways people get exposed to these harmful chemicals. In fact, PFAS can still be found in many everyday products according to the EPA, including but not limited to:
- Food packaging containing PFAS can potentially transmit PFAS to the food..
- Products like carpeting, clothing, and packaging materials can contain PFAS.
- Personal care products can expose our skin to PFAS chemicals.
Food packaging products with PFAS
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 grease-resistant compounds, according to a 2017 study from the Environmental Working Group. Some of the test samples detected traces of a notorious PFAS that was formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon™. That product 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. Of the 327 samples used to serve food, they found that 46% of the paper and 20% of the paperboard tested positive for fluorine.
According to the study, exposure to PFAS 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.
In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration stated that manufacturers of 15 different approved types of food packaging using PFAS would start phasing it out. However, the FDA has not yet banned all PFAS from food packaging. Many individual states have taken the initiative to ban food packaging that contains PFAs. A bill was introduced in 2021 to ban PFAS chemicals in food wrappers but it ultimately died in Congress. The EPA has found that virtually no level of exposure to two types of PFAS compounds in drinking water is safe.
Carpeting, clothing and furniture products with PFAS
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 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. Home Depot announced they will no longer sell carpeting that contains these chemicals. More companies are expected to follow this example in the future.
A variety of PFAS 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. PFAS were found in makeup, 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. As of now, we don’t yet know the true ramifications of this exposure. New Hampshire proposed an act (House Bill 1589) in January 2022 for the prohibition of the sale of all products containing intentionally added PFAS, but NHDES had concerns about the timeline for implementation and resources required; it was ultimately referred for interim study.
Reducing 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 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 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 non-stick cookware unless ceramic and/or they specifically state PFAS free. 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.
Secondwind Water Systems is committed to helping you and your family reduce your PFAS exposure. If you don’t know if you have PFAS in your water, contact us today and we’ll send one of our friendly and knowledgeable Certified Water Specialists to test it. Once the results are in, we will discuss treatment options with you.