‘Forever chemicals’ appear in children’s products, including those labeled ‘non-toxic’

Even if stain- or water-resistant children’s clothing is advertised as “green” or “non-toxic,” it may still contain PFAS, a group of manufactured “eternal chemicals” that have been linked to a wide range health problems in children.

In a new study, colleagues and I tested more than 90 water- and stain-resistant children’s items that are readily available in stores and online.

The results were revealing. We have found PFAS in school uniforms, pillows, upholstered furniture, and several other items that are often next to children’s skin and near their noses and mouths. None of the labels for these products warned that toxic manufactured chemicals were present. In fact, many of them were advertised as non-toxic or green.

What’s wrong with PFAS?

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of over 9,000 chemicals that contain a carbon-fluorine bond and are used for their persistent characteristics, such as their ability to resist water, heat and the fat.

These chemicals are all around us – they’re used in nonstick cookware, greaseproof food packaging, water-resistant clothing, plastic touchscreens and moldings, and fire-fighting foams. and industrial processes. They get into water, soil, dust and the air people breathe, and they can bioaccumulate in animals.

They have also been found in the blood of over 98% of Americans tested and in the most remote regions of the Earth. The relatively few PFASs that have been studied for their impact on humans have been shown to be associated with a wide range of health problems, such as cancers, increased cholesterol, interference with natural hormones and reduced vaccine response in children.

Children’s exposure to PFAS is of particular concern because their small size, developing bodies, and hormonal and physiological changes may make them more susceptible to the effects of PFAS. A review of children’s PFAS exposure and health effects found evidence of associations between blood PFAS levels and changes in the age at which children begin menstruating; other findings included changes in kidney function and immune responses, as well as dyslipidemia, an imbalance of fats in the blood, which can put children at risk for cardiovascular disease.

What we found in children’s products

Previous studies have found PFAS in children’s clothing, some of which are advertised as “functional” fabrics with characteristics such as water resistance. We sought to test whether information on the labels of children’s products, particularly products advertised as stain or water resistant, would predict the presence of PFAS.

We also wanted to know if products advertised or certified as “green” or “non-toxic” indicated the absence of PFAS.

We looked at 93 products used by children or teens, broken down into three broad product types: clothing, bedding, and furnishings. Early testing showed that 54 of these products had measurable levels of total fluoride, indicating the presence of PFAS. Our study partners at Alpha Analytical then tested these products for 36 individual PFASs.

We found that products advertised as water and stain resistant were more likely than other products to have detectable levels of total fluoride and higher levels of PFAS, although not all included PFAS. None of the other products had detectable levels of the PFAS chemicals we tested, although some did have measurable levels of total fluoride.

Water- or stain-resistant products advertised as “green” or “non-toxic” had similar detections of PFAS and total fluorine levels to water- or stain-resistant products without any green assurance.

The product categories that had the highest PFAS measurements were clothing, including school uniforms; pillow protectors and mattress protectors; and upholstery of children’s furniture.

Although our study did not measure exposure, it is possible that children in contact with these products may be exposed to PFAS compounds, many of which we did not measure, such as volatile PFAS that can be inhaled. . Studies have shown that with wear and washing, PFAS can leach out of durable or functional textiles, leading to increased potential for exposure and environmental contamination.

What can we do there?

Although more research is needed to quantify exposures to PFAS from children’s clothing and other products, it is worth asking why these chemicals are added to these products in the first place. The truth is, kids are messy, and buying white clothes or using lightweight carpeting in high-traffic rooms just isn’t practical.

The Environmental Protection Agency has considered federal rules to limit the use of PFAS and possibly declare them as hazardous substances. It’s a complicated debate with implications for the companies that make these chemicals and the products that contain them, and even for landfills and sewage treatment plants.

Several states are not waiting. California recently passed legislation that will phase out PFAS in children’s products. California, Maine, Vermont and Washington have banned PFAS in carpets and rugs. Maine has gone further and will phase out PFAS from consumer products sold in the state by 2023. Several other states are considering limiting or banning some or all PFAS in different uses, including fire-fighting foams , drinking water, food packaging and ski wax.

As someone who buys used clothing, which does not come with tags, for my children, I am concerned about exposure to PFAS. As our study has shown, it is difficult to know when an article contains PFAS.

“Green” product certifiers could help by ensuring that they include PFAS in their criteria. The precautionary principle would suggest avoiding non-critical uses of PFAS in general.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

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