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Home U.S.A Cosmetics, cellphones, guitar strings: the place we discovered 'without end chemical substances'

Cosmetics, cellphones, guitar strings: the place we discovered ‘without end chemical substances’


The hundreds of chemical substances often called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are known as “without end chemical substances” due to their excessive resistance to degradation, known as “persistence”. Every of us carries these chemical substances in our our bodies, and folks will proceed to be uncovered for generations to return.

Many PFAS can have an effect on our well being. Exposures have been linked to kidney and testicular most cancers, elevated ldl cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid illness, liver injury, low delivery weight, diminished immune responses and different adverse impacts.

So why – since we all know that PFAS are dangerous – are they nonetheless being produced and used? And why are we not defending ourselves from additional publicity by eliminating or not less than decreasing some makes use of?

We determined to look into how extensively these chemical substances are getting used to raised perceive whether or not all these makes use of are actually wanted. We sought inspiration within the UN Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer definition of “important makes use of” – makes use of thought-about important to well being, security or the functioning of our society, for which options don’t but exist.

The important thing concept within the Montreal Protocol was to section out non-essential makes use of of ozone-depleting substances. We realized that the protocol’s concept of “important use” might function a mannequin for tips on how to pragmatically management chemical substances on the whole – illustrated within the case of PFAS.

Our considering was that whereas some particular makes use of of PFAS, akin to occupational protecting clothes, could be thought-about important so long as there aren’t any sufficiently performing options, there could be many non-essential makes use of of PFAS that might be eradicated with out main disruptions to product security, efficacy, or effectivity.

What we discovered is deeply disturbing.

PFAS are utilized in virtually all trade branches and in a a lot wider vary of shopper merchandise than we anticipated. Altogether, we discovered PFAS in additional than 200 use classes. We already knew about PFAS in fire-fighting foams, refrigerants, lithium-ion batteries, carpets, waterproof materials, ski waxes, fast-food paper and board containers, muffin varieties, popcorn baggage, and dental floss. However here’s a listing of among the much less well-known shopper product and industrial makes use of we discovered:

  • Synthetic turf

  • Ammunition

  • E book conservation

  • Bicycle lubricants

  • Climbing ropes

  • Contact lenses

  • Cosmetics (physique lotion, basis, blush, cuticle therapy, eye cream, eye pencil, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, moisturizer, make-up remover, nail polish, powder, shampoo, hair lotions, conditioners, hair spray, hair mousse, shaving cream, sunscreen)

  • Filters for straining wines

  • Fishing strains

  • Guitar string coatings and piano keys

  • Greenhouse home windows

  • Hand sanitizers

  • Cell phones (insulated wiring, circuit boards/semiconductors, display screen coatings with fingerprint-resistant fluoropolymers)

  • Pharmaceutical packaging

  • Photovoltaic cells

  • Piano tuning lubricants

  • Pesticides used of mosquito mitigation

  • Toner and printing ink

  • Soil remediation

  • Water therapy and purification

  • Windmill blade coatings

For instance, we have been conscious {that a} PFAS known as PTFE was extensively utilized in lubricants. However in bicycle lubricants? We realized that it was being marketed as a high-performance additive. One small producer instructed us that the efficiency benefit was marginal however having PTFE on the label was thought-about optimistic by customers. They felt that not including PTFE (and never having it on the label) could be a danger for them and so they would possibly lose out to bigger rivals. In different phrases, this non-essential use has arisen simply by market alternative and was not pushed by efficiency.

Do we actually need this deceptive promise of excessive efficiency from a category of chemical substances we all know are having well being impacts, together with on our immune programs, and can final for ever? Definitely not, and the way in which ahead ought to be to manage all PFAS as a category.

We’re inspired by the efforts of a number of European international locations to develop a regulation that may remove all non-essential makes use of of PFAS throughout the European Union by 2030. However we additionally want to alter perceptions amongst customers, inside trade, and in different PFAS-producing international locations, together with the US.

Contemplating all makes use of of PFAS as “non-essential” except producers or customers make a convincing case for essentiality might assist drive the event of options and assist us to scale back manufacturing and makes use of of those dangerous “without end chemical substances”.



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