We can add toilet paper to the long list of products that are contaminated with PFAS; this pervasive contamination has led experts to recommend many Americans get tested for PFAS. It’s time to ban these dangerous chemicals. Action Alert!
We recently told you how PFAS contamination is worse than we previously thought because it has been found in a huge bevy of products for which it wasn’t added intentionally—PFAS can leach into products during the manufacturing process, and companies don’t even realize it. Now, a new report found that PFAS are present in several major toilet paper brands, demonstrating another route of exposure for these ubiquitous chemicals. Considering recent findings on the high levels of PFAS exposure among the population and the evidence demonstrating the serious human health concerns from this exposure, the government’s own National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) issued a report recommending PFAS blood tests for broad swaths of the population. All of this is happening while the EPA is asleep at the wheel. This cannot go on.
The report, issued jointly by Mamavation and Environmental Health News, found that 4 of 17 toilet paper brands tested positive for fluorine, an indicator of PFAS. Levels of PFAS ranged from 10 parts per million (ppm) to 35 ppm in four brands: Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper, Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bath Tissue, Tushy Bamboo Toilet Paper and Who Gives a Crap Bamboo Toilet Paper.
We reported previously on the extensive use of PFAS in cosmetics and other personal care products, and the particular danger this route of exposure poses. Lipstick that contains PFAS, for example, could inadvertently be ingested; PFAS in mascara could be absorbed through the tear ducts. And once PFAS enter the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates—they aren’t called “forever” chemicals for nothing. Note that makeup is absorbed through the skin, and chemicals absorbed through the skin directly enter the bloodstream. Toilet paper containing PFAS will touch the skin, and in sensitive parts of the body with many blood vessels.
The FDA has conducted some limited testing for PFAS in food. Recently, testing of seafood samples led to the recall of some canned clams because they were found to contain concerning levels of PFAS. Previous FDA testing in food found “detectable levels of certain PFAS” in tilapia, cod, fish sticks, shrimp, canned tuna, protein powder, and ground turkey. Despite bland reassurances, it is clear the FDA has no idea of the scope of the problem. The agency states, “Foods that are associated with areas of environmental contamination may or may not pose a risk.”
The EPA seems even more unconcerned about PFAS contamination. We reported recently that the agency has adopted a “working definition” of PFAS that excludes thousands of chemicals from the PFAS classification, which will make it harder to apply safety standards to these compounds and for polluters to be held accountable in the courts.
But some are taking PFAS more seriously. In light of these and other similar reports demonstrating the breadth of PFAS contamination, NASEM recently issued a report recommending blood tests and medical monitoring for millions of Americans who live in contaminated communities, have jobs that expose them to PFAS, and those who live near commercial airports, military bases, wastewater treatment plants, farms where sewage sludge is used, landfills, or incinerators.
The report also details the links between PFAS levels in the blood and specific health concerns, concluding there is “sufficient evidence” to link PFAS exposure to kidney cancer, decreased infant and fetal growth, decreased immune response, and high cholesterol. The quotes from the authors are stunning: “We find contamination in all 50 states and at least two territories, and in over 2,800 communities across the country,”
Note, too, that the levels of PFAS we are exposed to from any one source may be small, but the danger is in the cumulative effect of all the different exposures, both known and unknown. The bioaccumulation of PFAS in the body mean that even low exposures are concerning. PFAS are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with our hormones. A small change in hormone concentration—the equivalent of one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools—is enough to influence the human endocrine system, which impacts growth, metabolism, sleep, and other important bodily functions. Disruptions to our hormone system can lead to changes that cause disease and even death.
As a result of the pervasive use of PFAS in consumer, military and industrial products, there is now widespread contamination of PFAS in our water, air, food and soil across the world. Meanwhile, our government permits the continued use of these chemicals in spite of their extreme toxicity and turns a blind eye towards thousands of dangerous PFAS compounds. This is completely unacceptable.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and the EPA, telling them to ban PFAS chemicals. Please send your message immediately.