EWG’s Guide to Avoiding PFAS Chemicals [Visual]

PER- AND POLYFLUOROALKYL SUBSTANCES, KNOWN AS PFAS CHEMICALS, constitute a multi-billion dollar family of chemicals that are widely used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings. They’re also used in a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. These chemicals are notoriously persistent in the environment and the human body, and some have been linked to serious health effects.

Because PFAS chemicals are so widely used and contaminate the environment in so many ways—including through product degradation and pollution discharges—scientists and regulators have had difficulty tracing the exact routes that PFAS chemicals may take as they find their way into human blood. Their presence in blood is a near-universal phenomenon in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where do you Find PFAS Chemicals?

They’re used in coatings on carpets and clothing, in microwave popcorn bags and on fast-food wrappers. Most waterproof or stain-repellent clothing is coated with them, and while many responsible clothing companies are seeking safer alternatives, PFC coatings remain common in the marketplace.

The fabric may be labeled with brands such as TEFLON, SCOTCHGARD, STAINMASTER, POLARTEC OR GORE-TEX, but these are only a handful of the brands that still contain these chemicals.

Where else can PFAS Chemicals be found?

PFAS chemicals pollute water, are persistent in the environment and remain in the body for years. LEADING MANUFACTURERS OF PFAS CHEMICALS HAVE AGREED TO PHASE OUT SOME OF THESE CHEMICALS BY THE END OF 2015, INCLUDING PFOA, THE MOST NOTORIOUS, WHICH USED TO BE A KEY INGREDIENT IN MAKING TEFLON. But there’s no evidence that the chemicals that have replaced PFOA are much safer.

Tips to Avoid PFAS Chemicals

  1. Find products that haven’t been pre-treated and Skip optional stain-repellent treatment on new carpets and furniture. Many of these coatings are made with PFAS chemicals.
  2. Cut back on fast food and greasy carryout food. These foods often come in PFAS treated wrappers.
  3. Do your research, especially when buying outdoor gear, and choose clothing that doesn’t carry Gore-Tex or Teflon tags. Be wary of all fabrics labeled stain- or waterrepellent, even when they don’t carry a recognizable brand tag.
  4. Avoid PTFE-based nonstick pans and kitchen utensils. Opt for stainless steel or cast iron instead.
  5. Pop popcorn the old-fashioned way— on the stovetop. Microwaveable popcorn bags are often coated with PFAS chemicals on the inside.
  6. Choose personal care products without “PTFE” or “FLUORO” ingredients. Use EWG’s Skin Deep® database and Healthy Living app to find safer choices. Oral-B Glide floss, which is made by Goretex, is one example of dental floss made with PTFE.
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