A recently released report shows that many children's products--including those that have 'green' certifications--actually contain PFAS chemicals that can be harmful for children and that were NOT listed on the label. This concerning news shows that PFAS chemicals are pervasive in products and finding a way to remove toxic chemicals in your child's every day life is even more challenging.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Studies have linked PFAS with a wide range of health concerns and effects, including thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low birth weight, asthma and even cancers. Some research suggests that PFAS can even suppress one's immune system, and this obviously can weaken your child's ability to fight infections as it should.

It's hard to find ways to cut toxins from our lives, and from our children's lives, as so many harmful things are just pervasive. Looking for 'clean' or 'natural' or 'green' ingredients is sometimes a moot point with all the greenwashing done today, and the recent report released suggests that's the case with PFAS. Children's products, including ones with green certifications, were found to contain harmful PFAS chemicals that weren't listed on the labels.

Dr. Laurel Schaider is a senior Scientist at Silent Spring Institute. She's also the co-author of the study and says,
"Children's bodies are still developing and are especially sensitive to chemical exposures. It makes sense that parents would want to steer clear of products that contain ingredients that could impact their children's health now and in the future."
Dr. Schaider and her colleagues wanted to look into the efficacy of parents/consumers using the strategy of finding products labeled 'green' or 'nontoxic' when trying to buy safely for their children. They wanted to see whether that was the best way to avoid products with PFAS, or if there were other, better ways to discern.

The research team tested 93 different products often used by children and adolescents. These included furnishings, bedding and clothing and they specifically chose products labeled as stain-resistant, water-resistant, "green" or "nontoxic."

They initially looked for fluorine in the products, as fluorine is a marker of PFAS. Fifty-four of the products tested (over half) had detectable levels of fluorine, with a school uniform shirt containing the highest concentration. Products that were advertised as stain- or water-reistant, even the 'green' or 'non-toxic' ones, were more likely to have higher concentrations of the fluorine than when compared to the other products.

The research team also tested a subset of products for 36 different PFAS chemicals. In that testing, PFAS were found only in the products that were labeled stain- or water-resistant, and that included ones marketed as 'green' or 'nontoxic'. Additional key findings were as follows:

  • PFAS was detected most frequently in upholstered furniture, clothing, and pillow protectors
  • Pillow protectors and clothing in general had higher levels of PFAS than other products.
  • PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid, and a legacy PFAS that has been phased out in the U.S.,) was detected in a variety of products, including those labeled as "green." Most of those products came from China.
Kathryn Rodgers is a doctoral student at Boston University School of Public Health and co-author of the study. She said,
"These are products that children come into close contact with every day and over a long period of time. Given the toxicity of PFAS and the fact that the chemicals don't serve a critical function, they should not be allowed in products."
PFAS are used in products to make them waterproof, stain-resistant and non-stick. Found in carpets, apparel and upholstery, they're also sued in food packaging, non-stick cookware, makeup and even things like dental floss!

The researchers believe their findings highlight the explicit need for green certifications to include PFAS as criteria and to review products they certify more thoroughly. These green certifications are created by third-parties to offer assurance of the lack of harmful chemicals, but the certifiers vary in standards and don't always cover the same chemical lists.

Legislation to prevent manufacturers from putting PFAS products on the market has already occurred in a number of states, but truly, retailers need to be more fervent in their purpose of selling safe products to consumers. Consumerism is built on market trust, and consumers should be able to buy products marketed for children as 'green' and 'non-toxic' without fear.

For more ways to protect your family, you can download Silent Springs' Detox Me app.