A number of baby products labeled as “green” and “non-toxic” have been found to contain toxic PFAS chemicals, which may pose a threat to human health.
Children’s clothing, furniture and bedding, produced by some leading brands, were among the products found containing PFAS, by a team from the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts.
Some products, labeled “green” or “non-toxic”, were among the items, many of which were water resistant. The products came from a range of brands including Columbia, Old Navy, Gap and Lands’ End, among others.
PFAS are a class of over 9,000 chemicals that companies add to a wide variety of consumer products to make them non-stick, waterproof, and stain resistant.
With more and more consumers demanding products free of toxic ingredients, discerning which ones might be harmful and which ones are safe is not easy, the team said.
“The findings demonstrate the pervasiveness of PFAS in products and the challenges for consumers seeking to avoid toxic chemicals in their daily lives,” they said.
Studies have linked PFAS with a range of health effects including cancers, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low birth weight, and asthma, and a number of states have passed legislation to prevent manufacturers from including PFAS in products.
Most of the products the team tested had been made in China for US brands, they explained.
A number of baby products labeled as “green” and “non-toxic” have been found to contain toxic PFAS chemicals, which may pose a threat to human health. Stock image
Clothing, furniture and bedding intended for children and products from a number of leading brands were among the products found containing PFAS, by a team at the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts. Stock image
In addition to the risk of cancer, there is also evidence that PFAS can suppress the immune system, potentially weakening the effectiveness of childhood vaccines and the body’s ability to fight infections, according to study co-author Dr. Laurel Schaider.
‘Children’s bodies are still developing and are particularly sensitive to chemical exposure. It makes sense that parents want to steer clear of products that contain ingredients that could impact their children’s health now and in the future. ‘
For example, consumers often look for products labeled “green” or “non-toxic” when trying to avoid toxic chemicals, but this could be misleading, he said.
Schaider and his colleagues wanted to know if this is an effective strategy for avoiding products with PFAS or if there are other ways to determine if a product contains PFAS, so start testing 93 different products.
These were aimed at children and young people and included bedding, furniture and clothing items from different brands.
The researchers specifically selected products labeled stain resistant, water resistant, “green” or “non-toxic” and started with a test for fluoride, which acts as a marker for PFAS in rapid screening tests.
Some products, labeled “green” or “non-toxic”, were among the items, many of which were water resistant. The products came from a range of brands including Columbia, Old Navy, Gap and Lands’ End, among others. Stock image
PFAS are a class of over 9,000 chemicals that companies add to a wide variety of consumer products to make them non-stick, waterproof, and stain resistant. Stock image
They first used a rapid screening method to test products for fluoride, a marker of PFAS, and found that 54 of the products had a detectable level.
The highest single concentration of fluoride was found in a school uniform shirt.
Products advertised as water or stain resistant, even those labeled “green” or “non-toxic,” were more likely to contain fluoride and also have higher fluoride concentrations than other products.
PERFLUOROALKYL AND POLYFLUOROALKYL SUBSTANCES (PFAS)
PFAS are a complex and expanding group of chemicals that are widely used to make various types of everyday products.
They prevent food from sticking to pots, make clothes and carpets resistant to stains, and create more effective fire-fighting foam.
PFAS are used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics and military.
PFAS molecules are made up of a chain of connected carbon and fluorine atoms.
Since the carbon-fluorine bond is one of the strongest, these chemicals do not degrade in the environment.
Indeed, scientists are unable to estimate an environmental half-life for PFAS, which is the amount of time it takes 50% of the chemical to disappear.
Research on two types of PFAS forms the basis of our scientific understanding of this group of chemicals.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) have been produced for the longest time, are the most common in the environment and are the most studied.
Although these two compounds are no longer manufactured in the United States, chemical manufacturers have replaced them with alternative PFASs, such as GenX.
The researchers then tested a subset of products for 36 different PFAS chemicals, only finding them in products labeled as water or stain resistant, regardless of whether they were marketed as “green” or “non-toxic.”
PFAS were found more frequently in upholstered furniture, clothing and pillow protectors, with higher pillow and garment protectors than other products.
PFOA, a legacy PFAS that has been phased out in the United States, has been detected in a variety of products, including those labeled “green”.
‘These are products that children come into close contact with every day and over a long period of time. Given the toxicity of PFAS and the fact that chemicals do not perform a critical function, they should not be allowed in products, ”says co-author Kathryn Rodgers, a PhD student at Boston University School of Public Health.
In addition to items such as carpets, upholstery, and clothing, PFAS are also used in everyday items such as non-stick cookware, food packaging, and cosmetics.
The results of the new study highlight the need for green certifiers to include PFAS in their criteria and to conduct a more thorough review of the products they certify, Rodgers says.
Green certifications are created by third-party organizations and offer guarantees that a product does not contain certain harmful chemicals. However, certifications vary in their safety standards and do not all cover the same list of chemicals.
“Retailers also have a role to play in ending this toxic trail of pollution,” says Mike Schade, director of Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program.
‘Market power is based on trust. Customers should be able to trust that the retailers they shop at are selling products, especially those marketed to children, that aren’t laden with PFAS chemicals forever. ‘
Toxic-Free Future released a report in January that PFAS are prevalent in water- and stain-resistant clothing and other fabrics sold at top retailers.
California passed a law banning the use of PFAS in some baby and baby products and is now considering a bill to ban PFAS in textiles.
Washington State has passed a bill aimed at phasing out PFAS in a range of products including clothing, cosmetics and firefighter equipment by 2025.
A new law in Maine prohibits the sale of all products with intentionally added PFAS, with the exception of products where the use of PFAS is unavoidable, starting in 2030.
Massachusetts introduced a bill that would ban the use of PFAS in common household products, including carpet, cookware, and cosmetics.
The results were published in the journal Environmental sciences and technologies.