Many products for children such as clothes, bedding and furniture, including those with green certifications, contain harmful PFAS chemicals, also known as forever chemicals, says a study.
The products labelled as water or stain-resistant are most likely to contain PFAS that are not mentioned on label. PFAS are linked with health conditions such as cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, asthma and others.
A per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance, PFAS is a synthetic organofluorine chemical compound that has multiple fluorine atoms attached to an alkyl chain. PFASs are known to persist in the environment and are commonly described as persistent organic pollutants, also known as “forever chemicals.” Residues have been detected in humans and wildlife resulting in serious health concerns.
“Children’s bodies are still developing and are especially sensitive to chemical exposures,” says co-author Dr Laurel Schaider, senior scientist at Silent Spring Institute. “It makes sense that parents would want to steer clear of products that contain ingredients that could impact their children’s health now and in the future.”
The Silent Spring team tested 93 different products often used by children and adolescents, including bedding, furnishings and clothing. The researchers specifically chose products that were labeled as stain-resistant, water-resistant, “green” or “nontoxic.” Their report published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The team of scientists first used a rapid screening method to test the products for fluorine—a marker of PFAS. Fifty-four of the products contained detectable levels of fluorine. The highest concentration was found in a school uniform shirt. Products advertised as water- or stain-resistant, even those labelled as “green” or “non-toxic,” were more likely to contain fluorine and also have higher concentrations of fluorine compared with other products.
The researchers then tested a subset of products for 36 different PFAS chemicals. PFAS were found only in products labelled as water- or stain-resistant, regardless of whether they were marketed as “green” or “nontoxic.”