Well, this is not great news. Researchers of a new scientific study have discovered that food and water are not the only ways humans are exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals*–we are actually breathing in concerning levels of these toxins everyday. More specifically, the study results revealed that toxic PFAS compounds are contaminating the air inside our homes, schools and workplaces.**
Scientists tested indoor air at 20 sites and detected the “forever chemicals” in the majority of those sites–a whopping 17 locations. The airborne compounds are believed to break off of PFAS-treated products such as carpeting, fabric furniture and clothing and either attach to dust or freely float through the indoor environment.
While food and water were previously believed to be the primary sources of human exposure to PFAS chemicals, it now appears that breathing in indoor contaminants may expose some people even more than food and water. At the very least, because many people spend about 90% of their time indoors, the new findings suggest that breathing in the outgassed chemicals from stain-proof and water-proof carpeting, curtains, clothing and fabric furniture probably represents a third significant exposure route.
Also notable are the types of PFAS that the study detected. Among the most prevalent was 6:2 FTOH, a compound used in floor waxes, stain guards and food packaging. Industry previously claimed that 6:2 FTOH was safe, but an investigation in Spring of 2021 revealed that two major PFAS producers had hidden studies that suggested that the compounds are highly toxic at low doses in lab animals and stay in animals’ bodies for much longer than was previously known. (See our post about it here.)
Scientific findings from industry, federal agencies and independent researchers now link 6:2 FTOH to kidney disease, cancer, neurological damage, developmental problems, mottled teeth and autoimmune disorders.
The new study also found high levels of 8:2 FTOH, a type of compound that major PFAS manufacturers in the US claimed to have phased out of production because it is so dangerous. Its presence suggests that either not all companies have phased it out, or that it is in products made in and imported from countries where the chemical has not been banned.
*PFAS are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not break down. They accumulate in animals, including humans, and are linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, decreased immunity, hormone disruption and a range of other serious health problems.
** PFAS chemicals are used across dozens of industries and are in thousands of everyday consumer products such as stain guards, carpeting and shoes. Textile manufacturers use them to produce waterproof clothing, and they are also used in floor waxes, nonstick cookware, food packaging, cosmetics, firefighting foam and much more.
Journal Reference: Morales-McDevitt, M.E., et al. The Air That We Breathe: Neutral and Volatile PFAS in Indoor Air, Environmental Science and Technology Letters, American Chemical Society, August, 2021. PDF version. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00481