This email is the fourth in a series of twelve for child care providers in New York State that Clean and Healthy New York trained on EcoHealthy Child Care® and toxic chemical reduction and elimination strategies. We hope you find them helpful and they inspire you to take further steps to reduce the hidden toxic chemicals in your setting.

 

Stain- and Waterproofers: PFASs

 

What's the problem?

 

Most stain-, water-, and greaseproof materials these days are treated with PFASs – poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances. This is a broad category of chemicals that include perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) such as PFOA and PFOS, and chemicals introduced to replace them. PFOS, PFOA and other “long-chain” PFASs, are being phased out because of concerns raised about how very persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic they are. (1)

 

This means they don’t break down in the environment, build up in our bodies over time, and are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, higher cholesterol levels, suppressed immune systems, and weakened ability for children to benefit from vaccinations.  As often happens, newer but similar chemicals replacing those known to be toxic are not well studied before they are released into the marketplace. Because replacement chemicals are still very similar to the ones we know are toxic and persistent, over 200 scientists have signed the “Madrid Statement” expressing concerns about the entire class of PFAS chemicals, calling for more research, manufacturer phase-outs, and avoiding them whenever possible.(2)

Spot it: Where can PFASs be found?

PFAS is one of the most widely used classes of chemicals, period. They are used in many waterproof, and especially stain- and grease-proof products. Stainproof coatings break down over time, entering house dust and therefore people's bodies.  

Key words to watch out for: “nonstick,” “stain-resistant,” “grease-proof,” “waterproof.” They are also used in fire-fighting foams, electrical wiring and more to retard fire. PFAS chemicals are found in the blood of 97% of Americans tested; it has been found in samples from Antarctica and above the Arctic circle.

In child care settings, you can find them:

  • In the kitchen: nonstick-coated pans, pots, and cookware, waffle irons, bread machines, rice cookers, pizza boxes, fast food and packaged food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, as a contaminant in processed food.

  • In the bathroom: Some dental floss (Gore-tex), make-up and personal care products.

  • Outdoor products: sleeping bags, tents, footwear.

  • In the closet: Stain-resistant pants and waterproof rain gear.

  • In the living and play rooms: stain-resistant sofas, chairs, and carpets.

  • At the tap: depending on where you live, your drinking water may be contaminated. Between 2013 and 2015, EPA found PFASs in Jefferson, Orange, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, before it detected PFOA in Hoosick Falls' and Petersburgh's drinking water (in Rensselaer County).

What can I do?

​​

  1. Choose glass, stainless steel, cast iron, or enamel cookware.

  2. Limit consumption of fast food and processed food.

  3. As you replace furniture, choose untreated fabrics.

  4. Replace carpet with hard surfaces when possible (for many environmental health reasons), and when using carpet (or better, an area rug), choose carpet without stainproofing.

  5. Look for "fluoro" in product content labels and avoid those whenever possible. Chemicals with F in acroynms (like PFOA, PFHxS, PFOS, etc.) also mean they are fluorinated. (Note that our caution on this doesn't include fluoride toothpaste at this time.)

  6. Vacuum with a HEPA filter and damp mop to remove contaminated dust.

  7. If you need stain resistance, look for water-based, VOC-free, PFAS-free after-market treatments (there are some).

  8. Call your local water supplier to determine if your community tests for PFAS chemicals, and ensure they are filtering out these contaminants if present. If on a private well near an airport or industrial facility, test your drinking water for PFASs. Reverse osmosis filters can remove PFAS and other toxic chemicals that carbon filters don't.

 

Learn more

 

"Basic Information about Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs)" - From the US EPA

"What are PFASs, the toxic chemicals being found in drinking water?"- from PBS

 

Mt. Sinai School of Medicine operates the Children's Environmental Health Center of Excellence, conducting research into environmental causes of childhood disease. They also provide free consultation for parents who have questions about environmental exposures. To contact the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), please call 1-866-265-6201 or e-mail pehsu@mssm.edu.

Sources

​​

  1. NIEHS Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) fact sheet (PDF)

  2. Madrid Statement on Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs).

Toxic-free tips #4

NYSP2I is dedicated to helping NYS residents and businesses find implementable and cost-effective sustainability solutions.

Funding provided by the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NYS Pollution Prevention Institute or Department of Environmental Conservation.

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