Water- and stain-resistant products contain toxic plastics, study says. Here's what to do


Independent laboratories commissioned by Toxic-Free Future, an environmental and well being advocacy and analysis group, ran chemical exams on 60 products in three classes — outside attire, bedding, and tablecloths and napkins — bought from 10 main retailers.

All of the products examined by Toxic-Free Future have been imported from international locations in Asia and bought within the United States and on-line, the report mentioned.

“We detected PFAS in a wide variety of products that included rain jackets, hiking pants, shirts, mattress pads, comforters, tablecloths and napkins,” mentioned coauthor Erika Schreder, science director for Toxic-Free Future.

Man-made perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemical substances, or PFAS, are constructed from a series of linked carbon and fluorine atoms that do not degrade within the atmosphere. These PFAS chemical substances have been detected within the blood of 99% of Americans, in accordance to a 2015 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thousands of types of PFAS are utilized in most of the products we buy, together with nonstick cookware, infection-resistant surgical robes and drapes, cell phones, semiconductors, business plane and low-emissions automobiles.

The chemical substances are additionally used to make carpeting, clothes, furnishings and meals packaging resistant to stains, water and grease harm. Once handled, the report mentioned, textiles emit PFAS over the course of their lifetimes, escaping into the air and water in properties and communities.

The report did have some excellent news for customers, Schreder mentioned.

“We didn’t find PFAS in any of the items that were not marketed as stain or water-resistant,” Schreder mentioned. “Consumers can just choose those to be safe.”

Raincoats, after all, are a distinct story, as a result of customers want them to be rain-repellent. But there’s a rainbow right here as effectively, Schreder added. To accomplish the objective of repelling water, a number of firms are utilizing tighter weaves, PFAS-free membranes between coat layers, and “paraffin wax, which is the only coating that has been publicly assessed and found to be safer.”

Banned PFAS nonetheless discovered

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Over the final decade, American chemical producers have voluntarily stopped producing two closely studied PFAS substances which were linked to most cancers, coronary heart illness, immune and endocrine problems, and extra: the eight-carbon chain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

However, testing by Toxic-Free Future discovered 74% of the imported products nonetheless contained the older PFAS chemical substances.

“I used to be alarmed that the older, longer PFAS chains, touted by trade as having been phased out, have been present in these imported products,” mentioned Melanie Benesh, a legislative and regulatory lawyer for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group devoted to reforming chemical security and agricultural legal guidelines. Neither Benesh nor EWG have been concerned with the report.

A spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, an trade commerce group, instructed NCS that importation may clarify why “legacy chemistries that have been phased out were identified and could indicate a greater need for control over imported products.”

Newer chemical substances discovered

The report mentioned product testing additionally discovered quite a lot of newer PFAS chemical substances created by trade to take the place of PFOA and PFOS. Experts say the brand new variations, which merely change the eight-carbon chain with four- or six-carbon chains, seem to have most of the harmful well being results because the older chemical substances. Thus, specialists say, customers and the atmosphere are nonetheless in danger.

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“They went to the shorter chain carbons, and you study them, and they do just about the same thing,” microbiologist Linda Birnbaum, the previous director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, told NCS in a prior interview.

“Some people call it the ‘Whac-a-Mole’ problem. Others call it the chemical conveyor belt,” Birnbaum mentioned. “Why would we think that you can make a very minor change in a molecule you are manufacturing and the body wouldn’t react in the same way?”

The American Chemistry Council took subject with the report’s findings, saying not all PFAS are equal and shouldn’t be regulated within the the identical method.

“Lumping all PFAS together as if they are the same is at odds with mainstream science,” mentioned Tom Flanagin, director of product communications for the American Chemistry Council, in an e-mail. “Consumers need to be wary of reports that use flawed assumptions unsupported by the science.”

Good information for customers

There are an growing variety of methods client can keep away from clothes and different products laced with PFAS, specialists say. One of the simplest: voting together with your pocketbook.

“The easiest thing a consumer can do is don’t buy things that are marketed as stain- and water-resistant,” EWG’s Benesh mentioned. “When it comes to clothing you want to be more waterproof, I think you’d have to do your research with the retailer to see which products are actually PFAS-free.”

There are lists of firms that are PFAS-free — or not less than are within the means of changing into so, specialists say. The Environmental Working Group has curated an inventory of companies who have not intentionally added PFAS to their products.
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Consumers also can examine the record of GreenScreen Certified products, which is a “globally recognized tool designed to assess and benchmark chemicals based on hazard,” mentioned Shari Franjevic, the GreenScreen program supervisor for Clean Production Action, a company devoted to assessing inexperienced chemical substances, sustainable supplies and environmentally preferable products.

“The key value of GreenScreen is that it takes really complex toxicology and distills it down to a score between one and four in harm (with four being the safest). That allows people to place chemicals on a continuum and say, ‘OK, this is safer than that,’ and begin to select safer chemicals for their products.”

You nonetheless might have to learn labels, nevertheless. That’s as a result of not each merchandise in an organization’s portfolio could but be freed from toxic chemical substances, whereas legacy products being phased out should be on the cabinets in shops.

Reading a label could also be more durable than you assume, contemplating the alphabet soup of initials used to title varied PFAS chemical substances. Here are only a few:

  • PFBA
  • PFPeA
  • PFHxA
  • PFUdA
  • PFDoA
  • PFTrDA
  • PFHpA
  • PFTeDA
  • PFNA
  • PFDA
  • PFHxDA
  • PFODA.

That record does not embrace the 2 legacy chemical substances being phased out: PFOA and PFOS.

“The most common way companies mislead is that they’ll say it’s PFOA-free, even though other PFAS’s have been used in the product,” mentioned Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice chairman for presidency affairs.

Going to the difficulty to do your analysis is price it, mentioned GreenScreen’s Franjevic, as a result of there are lots of different problematic chemical substances in our lives than PFAS.

“One of the things we’re trying to educate the public on is just because it’s PFAS-free doesn’t mean it’s safer,” Franjevic mentioned. “We are really encouraging people to understand that you want PFAS-free and what we call ‘preferred chemistry’ — products made without other carcinogens or mutagens or reproductive toxins.”



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