ecoroll is lab-certified PFAS-free
This is about the everyday products we are exposed to that make us and our planet sick. PFAS chemicals. We should all be concerned about PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. There are very few places in your home void of these chemicals. And they fall from the sky. In mainstream circles, they are referred to as ‘forever chemicals, due to the fact they persist in ecosystems, wildlife, and our bodies, so they are accumulative. Studies have linked these chemicals to cancer, reproductive issues, endocrine disruption, and various health effects. We regularly perform third-party lab tests to ensure compliance and can confirm that no PFAS were detected in our toilet paper. Some 15,000 PFAS chemicals are known, and no regulatory requirements exist to inform the public of their presence in the products we buy. In this article, we dive into PFAS, what products contain them, and question why we are still exposed and how we go about reducing our exposure.
What are PFAS?
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the DuPont chemical, is one of a group of 15,000 chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS). They are perhaps the most persistent class of manmade chemicals, their use prolific in various industrial and consumer products and processes. PFAS are included in so much of use and consume every day. These chemicals make pans non-stick, clothing and carpets more durable and stain-resistant, and pizza boxes resistant to grease. According to research published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters, textiles, household chemicals, and cosmetics contain the highest average concentrations among personal care products.
So widespread is the planet’s PFAS load that, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, every raindrop contains PFAS, with the clouds having picked up PFAS in water evaporating from contaminated oceans. The authors conclude that “the environmental contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) defines a separate planetary boundary and that this boundary has been exceeded.” Such exposure, coupled with environmental persistence, led to measurable PFAS in the blood of nearly the entire population in developed countries, with health effects reported globally.
Teflon is a PFAS
In 1945, DuPont introduced Teflon to the world, the pans. Perhaps you have one in your kitchen. If you have seen Dark Waters, it is likely not. Dark Waters is a movie directed by Todd Haynes. Mark Ruffalo played the lawyer who took DuPont to court and won. The lawyer, Rob Bilott, was approached for help by a West Virginia farmer, Wilbur Earl Tennant, whose land was contaminated by DuPont in 1998.
Tennant’s cows were dying, and he suspected that the land he had sold to DuPont had been used for more than a landfill for office garbage. Bilott went on to pursue a class action suit representing around 70,000 people living near a chemical plant that allegedly contaminated drinking water with PFOA, a toxic chemical used in the production of Teflon. In 2017, Bilott won a USD671 million settlement on behalf of more than 3,500 plaintiffs.
An article published in the Chicago Tribune details what eventually led Billot back into the courtroom after discovering a letter sent by a DuPont scientist to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding perfluorooctanoic acid, referred to today as PFOA. DuPont had tested employees at the Teflon plant and found the chemical in their blood. DuPont had also determined that PFOA passed from pregnant employees to their fetuses. Two of seven babies born to Teflon plant employees in 1981 had facial deformities.
PFAS accumulate in human blood, the accumulation of perfluoroalkyl substances in human tissues was reported first in this 2013 study published in Environmental International. And they don’t break down in the environment. DuPont knew this. An excerpt from the Chicago Tribune’s Persistent farmer whose cows died from a mysterious disease unravel the origin of toxic chemicals.
“Yet to this day, the companies deny responsibility,” Bilott said in an interview. “In the meantime, people are drinking these chemicals every day. Babies are born every day with these chemicals. Seventy years later, these chemicals are in our soil, air, and wildlife. They are still in all of us.”
Is anyone trying to regulate PFAS?
PFAS are used in thousands of consumer products. Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, yet it is still the active ingredient in Roundup and available for purchase from garden centres. Perhaps the fact that the chemical industry helped write the toxic substance laws would partially explain why it would appear lawmakers are doing so little. As quoted in the TIMES, Bilott states:
“If we can’t get where we need to go to protect people through our regulatory channels, through our legislative process, then unfortunately, what we have left is our legal process,” says Bilott. “If that’s what it takes to get people the information they need and to protect people, we’re willing to do it.”
For more on the DuPont case, read The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.
What are the effects of PFAS on human health?
It is with high certainty that PFAS can lead to health problems such as liver damage, thyroid disease, fertility issues, increased cholesterol levels and kidney cancer. Sources include the C8 Science Panel (2012), which monitored the health of some 70,000 people in West Virginia exposed to certain PFAS in their drinking water. This data was used in the class-action suit against DuPont. By this point, the dangers of PFAS are known: National Toxicology Program (2016), IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans (2017), Barry et al. (2013), Fenton et al. (2009), and White et al. (2011b), European Environment Agency (2019). Still, PFAS were used in consumer products for decades when companies knew they were harmful. Still, they assured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other U.S. government regulators (and their employees) that PFAS exposures were harmless.
How do I avoid PFAS?
While several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) sources are known, their use in consumer household products is far less explored. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some personal possessions and parts of your household that are exposing you to forever chemicals:
— Personal care products including shampoo, dental floss, toilet paper, tampons, period underwear and pads. Last March, a study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters investigated Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances in toilet paper and their impact on wastewater systems. Their findings suggest that toilet paper should be considered a potentially major source of PFAS entering wastewater treatment systems. TIME covered the findings in more detail here: Now We Need to Worry About Harmful ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Our Toilet Paper Too.
ecoroll is lab-certified PFAS-free. From founding, we have been committed to producing a low-impact, non-toxic toilet paper and regularly perform third-party lab tests to ensure compliance. Confirmed by SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance SA, Switzerland), recognised as the world's leading testing, inspection and certification company, ecoroll was screened for total fluorine, including perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) content and we can confirm that no PFAS were detected.
— Food. PFAS are applied in food packaging and therefore transfer to the food they contain, so fast-food wrappers, takeout boxes, and any packaging that keeps oil in could contain forever chemicals. Avoid packaged foods where possible, and avoid plastic food containers, HDPE—the more rigid #2 plastics contain PFAS. And absolutely avoid non-stick anything. And where you have a chemical as persistent as PFAS (they are literally everywhere, our water, our soil, for example), if they are accumulating in human blood, then forever chemicals are going to be in animal and animal products. And fish.
— Drinking water. Researchers at the University of Auckland confirmed the presence of PFAS in Aotearoa, New Zealand, urban waters in January 2022. In October of 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced an agency-wide “strategic roadmap” to restrict the use of PFAS and hold polluters accountable that would see a historic amount of funding available to monitor and treat the public water systems as required. The TIMES published The Challenge of Removing Toxic PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ from Drinking Water, which is well worth a read in the context of the contentious water infrastructure issues facing Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Other products. Artificial turf, bicycle lubricants, clothing, contact lenses, cosmetics (all of it, mascara, lipstick, moisturisers, makeup remover, nail polish, shampoo, conditioners, hair spray, mousse, shaving cream, sunscreen, et cetera), fishing lines, hand sanitisers, mobile phones (insulated wiring, circuit boards/semiconductors, screen coatings with fingerprint-resistant fluoropolymers), pharmaceutical packaging, pesticides used for mosquito mitigation, toner and printing ink. And more.
Of course, not every brand of the mentioned products contains PFAS, but many will. PFAS are in so much of what we eat, drink and use, and scientists (and regulators) are only now beginning to understand how they impact our health and what to do about it. If you are concerned, various websites provide guidance for identifying products without intentionally added PFAS, including databases sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, the Center for Environmental Health and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Research can help you limit your exposure to PFAS.