Toxic spaces: exposure to PFAS via indoor air pollution
An article in the Guardian last week highlighted how indoor air pollution might be a significant source of exposure to the ‘forever chemicals’ PFAS.
In a new study conducted in the US, 20 indoor sites including classrooms and homes were tested, with the harmful substances detected in 17 locations. PFAS in airborne form is thought to originate from products in the indoor environment that have been treated with the substance.
PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are used in a wide range of consumer products due to their ability to repel both grease and water with the electronics, textiles and cookware industries often making use of the substance.
Alongside exposure to PFAS through food and water, this and other recent studies indicate that indoor air pollution might be a significant and underestimated source of exposure to the chemicals based on the amount of time people spend indoors.
Should we worry?
Out of the group of over 5000 PFAS chemicals, there are many thousands that lack data on their toxicity. However, for the chemicals that have been studied in detail, their human health and environmental impacts are known to be extensive. They have been found to interfere with the hormone system, immune system and act as potential carcinogens.
CHEM Trust’s 2017 report ‘No Brainer: The impact of chemicals on children’s brain development: a cause for concern and a need for action’ highlighted the issue of hazardous chemicals building up in indoor dust and the potential impact on the development of children’s brains.
What can you do about this?
Due to the wide range of their uses, it is difficult to avoid exposure to PFAS. However, to try and reduce your exposure CHEM Trust recommends the following:
- Food: avoid using non-stick cookware and favour home-cooked meals over fast-food and takeaways.
- Textiles: check for PFAS- or PFC-free labels.
- Cosmetics: avoid products containing chemicals with “fluoro” or PTFE in their name (check the ingredient list). Also avoid dental floss with PTFE coatings.
CHEM Trust’s aim, both in the EU and UK, is to bring about a ban of non-essential uses of the PFAS chemicals.
Read more about here what we are asking the UK government to do in relation to PFAS and other harmful chemicals.
Read more here about steps being taken in the EU to ban PFAS.
For more news, click here.