Stop Exposing the Public to Unnecessary Toxic Chemicals: Scientists

Scientists are calling on corporations and regulators to stop unnecessarily exposing the public to potentially deleterious chemicals like PFAS, arguing: “Human exposure to unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals could be greatly reduced if manufacturers add chemicals only when they are truly essential in terms of health, safety and functioning of society.”

Stop putting people at risk with unneeded chemicals

In the new study, researchers propose a framework based on the concept of “essential use” to determine whether a chemical is really needed in a particular application. They demonstrate the concept on a class of synthetic chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

PFAS are used in many consumer goods because of their unique properties such as water and stain repellency. However, a growing number of scientists and health professionals express concern about these chemicals since they persist for a very long time, seep into our water and soil, and may adversely impact people’s health and wildlife.

Moreover, human health problems linked to certain PFAS exposure include kidney and testicular cancer, liver malfunction, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, lower birth weight and size, obesity, and decreased immune response to vaccines.

chemicals-PFAS-in fast food packaging

From surfer shorts to surgical drapes

The study classifies many uses of PFAS as “non-essential.” For example, the study points out that it may be nice to have water-repelling surfer shorts, but in this instance water repellency is not essential.

cosmetics-pfas-stockholm university

Other products analyzed with the Essential Use Framework include personal care products such as toothpaste and dental floss, a range of cosmetics, water repellent and stain resistant clothing, furniture fabric and other textiles, food packaging and other food contact materials (including restaurant, grocery store and deli takeout food containers and fast food containers), medical devices, pharmaceuticals, laboratory supplies and ski waxes. Some uses may be regarded as essential in terms of health and safety, e.g., fire-fighting foams, but functional alternatives have been developed that can be substituted instead.

In the final analysis the researchers argue that exposing the public to potentially dangerous chemicals is a function of market opportunity and that increasing corporate profits should not be a basis for unnecessarily increasing risk to human health as well as the well-being of wildlife and the environment.



Journal Reference: Ian T. Cousins, Gretta Goldenman, Dorte Herzke, Rainer Lohmann, Mark Miller, Carla A. Ng, Sharyle Patton, Martin Scheringer, Xenia Trier, Lena Vierke, Zhanyun Wang, Jamie C. DeWitt. The concept of essential use for determining when uses of PFASs can be phased out. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 2019; DOI: 10.1039/c9em00163h


For more scientific reports on the dangers of PFAS see:

Toxic Forever Chemical PFAS Leaching into Food, FDA Confirms

And see other CFL posts on PFAS (PFOS/PFOA) scientific findings:


Researchers Discover High Levels of Toxic Industrial Chemical in U.S. Drinking Water

Compostable food containers could release PFAS into environment

Big Chemical Sued (again) Over Toxic Food Packaging Chemicals

Kids Carry Toxic Chemicals in Their Bodies from Vinyl Flooring, Furniture

Toxic Forever-Chemical in Your Drinking Water: Status Update

Toxic Industrial Chemicals Pass to Fetus Throughout Pregnancy: Scientists

Toxic Chemical Discovered in Dental Floss

Life-Altering Toxic Chemicals: A Brief History

Safer Chemical on Non-Stick Cookware Actually Quite Dangerous, says EPA

Increased weight gain linked with common chemicals

Chemicals of Concern in One-Third of Fast Food Packaging: New Study