‘Green’ kids’ products aren’t always PFAS-free, new study warns
According to new research, PFAS are found in “green” and “non-toxic” products, particularly waterproof products marketed to children and adolescents.
The new study, published today inEnvironmental science and technology, shows that some children’s products labeled “green” or “non-toxic” contain PFAS, which stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, a group of toxic chemicals used in many consumer and industrial products. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to health problems such as certain types of cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects. The findings, the researchers say, underscore the need for a better understanding of how PFAS end up in products and for stronger regulations to protect consumers.
Researchers tested 93 items marketed or often used by children and teens, including clothing, face masks, mattress pads, rugs, sheets and upholstery. They detected fluorine, a PFAS indicator, in 54 of the 93 products. The 54 fluorine-containing products were then tested for specific PFAS chemicals.
Related: What are PFAS?
“I was surprised at how often PFAS appeared in a wide range of different consumer products,” said Laurel Schaider, study author and senior PFAS researcher at the Silent Spring Institute, a research organization. non-profit independent researcher at EHN.
The paper aimed to illustrate PFAS trends among products marketed as water- or stain-resistant, as well as those with and without “green” labeling or green certifications – third-party assurances that convey to the consumer that the product meets certain criteria for chemicals. security. At least one item in each product category contained fluoride, while water and stain resistant products most often contained evidence of PFAS.
The research is part of an ongoing collaboration between the EHN and the wellness community mamavation who found evidence of PFAS in clothing, food, and makeup, including many so-called “green” and “organic” brands.
PFAS and “green” insurance
PFAS have been linked to delayed brain development and immune system problems in children. (Credit: krakenimages/Unsplash)
Waterproof or stain-resistant products labeled with “green” language, such as “non-toxic” or “eco-friendly,” as well as products with green certifications, have been found to have similar concentrations of fluoride, a PFAS indicator, for waterproof or stain resistant products without “green” labeling. Some waterproof products with green certifications Green Guard Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100two certifications designed to reduce chemical risks to human health, have been found to contain evidence of PFAS.
“PFAS are a large class of substances and not all are currently regulated under” the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Dominik Kinschel, product manager for Oeko-Tex, said in a statement to EHN. “Therefore, it is possible that a PFAS substance that is not regulated within [Oeko-Tex Standard 100] is on a [Oeko-Tex Standard 100] certified item.
Additionally, he said, Oeko-Tex aims to phase out all PFAS chemicals for apparel textiles over the next few years.
Shaider said while some products with the PFAS indicator were labeled “green” and “non-toxic,” green certification can still be a useful tool. These certifications often focus on protecting other harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, but do not specifically focus on PFAS.
“Certifiers are increasingly aware of concerns about PFAS chemicals,” Schaider said. “[Certifications] are useful in helping consumers avoid certain types of products. But, for now, they are not as useful in helping consumers avoid PFAS in textile articles.
Schaider postulated that most of the fluorine in these items is added intentionally, although, she said, it’s possible the contamination was unintentional via manufacturing equipment.
PFAS in children’s products are of particular concern because, as a type of endocrine disruptor, meaning that it disrupts or mimics the proper functioning of hormones, PFAS have a profound impact on bodies still in development, Schaider said. SPFAs have been bound delayed brain development and immune system problems in children.
A range of PFAS in products
Most surprising to Schaider was the presence of long-chain PFAS in some of the products tested. Long-chain PFAS are an older version of PFAS chemicals that stay in the human body longer than newer “short-chain” PFAS chemicals. Manufacture of long-chain PFAS, such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), for example, has been removed in the United States
However, several products tested by the researchers, some of which were labeled with “green” language, contained PFOA. Schaider believes the PFOA in these products likely comes from international sources, such as China, where PFOA manufacture is still prevalent.
Some products tested also contained PFAS precursors, chemicals that break down or are converted to PFAS once they degrade in the environment or enter the human body. The amount of PFAS precursors found in products was often greater than the amount of named PFAS chemicals detected.
Many PFAS precursors are volatile, which means they can enter the air more easily than PFAS themselves. These volatile chemicals are more likely to end up in household dust and expose consumers through dust inhalation.
What consumers can do
Consumers looking to avoid PFAS in children’s products can avoid water- and stain-resistant products, Schaider said. “Look for items that could achieve this with a different type of barrier, like a more physical barrier, rather than relying on a coating,” she said.
The Silent Spring Institute has developed a smartphone application, called detox meto help consumers make choices that impact their exposure to chemicals.
However, Schaider said, research supports the need for comprehensive PFAS legislation in the United States. “It shouldn’t be on individual consumers to have to think about toxic chemicals when buying items for their homes.”
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