GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new study by a team of researchers at Boston University found several everyday products meant for children still contain PFAS, including some that claim to be non-toxic.
PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — is a giant group of chemical compounds. PFAS was first developed in the 1940s and incorporated into all sorts of products in the years that followed, including non-stick pans, nail polish, eye makeup and dental floss.
For decades, manufacturers knew PFAS builds up in the human bloodstream, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the EPA announced the chemical compounds are a likely carcinogen, meaning they can cause cancer.
The study, published last week in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology,” tested 93 different products that kids are likely to use on a consistent basis: including clothes, face masks, bedding and household furnishings. Researchers also selected items based on how they were advertised: looking for items that claimed to be water- or stain-resistant or used environmentally friendly materials.
The study started by testing for fluorine, one of the main components of PFAS. Researchers found fluorine levels above 10 parts per million in 54 of the 93 products. Those 54 were submitted for further testing and found 18 of them had detectable levels of PFAS.
All 18 were items listed as water- or stain-resistant. Clothing and upholstery had the highest rates of PFAS (79%), including one school uniform that showed 3,660 parts per million of fluorine and at least four different types of PFAS.
Rugs and bedsheets had the lowest frequency at 25%.
The Environmental Protection Agency is working on a possible set of federal regulations on PFAS manufacturing, but the wide-ranging issue is complicated. The EPA and lawmakers must factor in how those companies can respond and what needs to be done about our landfills and land already contaminated with PFAS.
Michigan is one of 21 states that have imposed some form of limit or ban on products containing PFAS.