PFAS: A Clear and Present Danger

kitchen with non-stick pans

It's hard enough to track ingredients in the food we eat, let alone monitor all of the potentially harmful things in products we use daily. But, unfortunately, in the modern world we live in, many of the materials used in making household items can be harmful and pose a risk to your health. 

What are PFAS? 

PFAS or polyfluoroalkyl substances are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in many everyday materials, including mattresses, nonstick cookware, carpet, textiles, high-performance outdoor gear, coated paper products, and a variety of cleaning products, paints, varnishes, and sealants. 

These compounds are used to repel oil, water, grease, and stains, resist extreme temperatures and reduce friction, and have been widely used for over 80 years. 

PFAS also contain the element fluorine, which is considered a very stable substance and earned the distinction of being "forever chemicals" because they don't naturally degrade in soil or water. 

What is the Risk? 

PFAS have been detected in blood serum of up to 99 percent of a representative population of the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been concerned about the adverse health and environmental effects of PFAS, and some U.S. manufacturers began voluntarily phasing out production of some PFAS in 2004. The phase-out resulted in decreasing levels of some PFAS in blood serum and bio-monitoring studies. 

With over 5,000 different PFAS being identified and the common use of these within household items, it poses a clear and present risk to everyday health. PFAS come in two versions known as "long-chain" and "short-chain" and have been studied to see if one would potentially be less harmful than another. 

Short-chain PFAS were initially believed to be less toxic and less persistent in the environment. Unfortunately, these alternatives have proven to be as persistent in the environment as their long-chain counterparts, with different but no less concerning health and environmental impacts.

Scientists are now raising concerns about the harmful impacts of this new generation of PFA compounds. For example, short-chain PFAS are harder to remove from drinking water and have a greater potential for long-range transport and have shown increases in the presence within humans and the environment.

Studies on animals have also shown health effects, including suggestive cancer cells, in the thyroid, kidney, blood, immune system, reproductive organs, developing fetus, and the liver following oral exposure.

What Does Future Hold? 

Although some federal laws and regulations could eventually be used to control PFA contamination, the EPA has not yet issued enforceable standards for these chemicals. As a result, PFAS are not currently required to be routinely monitored at public water supply sites. 

Currently, PFAS are not listed as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). No PFA compounds are listed as hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). PFA compounds are also not listed as toxic or priority pollutants under the Clean Water Act.

Congressional lawmakers have proposed plans to address these ever-present dangers, but nothing has been passed into law. 

Some states concerned with the slow response to develop enforceable regulations have adopted or introduced regulations and policies of their own to address PFAS in drinking water, landfills, firefighting foams, cosmetics, and food packaging. 

However, PFA chemicals continue to be used in consumer products and continuously expose people and the environment to potential poisons, resulting in growing health risks.

How to Stay Safe

Given the clear and present risk associated with exposure to PFAS, the first step to staying safe is educating yourself on the uses in everyday products. Read labels and remain diligent in cutting down on the exposures wherever you can. 

Progress can be a slow process to get changes made. But, knowing the risks and choosing products that don't include PFAS can be a big step in the right direction for your safety and overall well-being for you and your family. 

You can always trust Naturepedic. Not only are we certified to the strictest organic standards through the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), we pride ourselves on being the leading organic mattress brand when it comes to transparency and safety. It is our promise to you that we will always take care to eliminate harmful chemicals from all of our products. For more information about PFAS, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency