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Band-Aids May Expose You to Hazardous ‘Forever Chemicals’

Bandages that you apply to open wounds may contain toxic polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl chemicals, known collectively as PFAS.

Band-Aids May Expose You to Hazardous ‘Forever Chemicals’

Mamavation, in partnership with Environmental Health News, tested a variety of bandage brands, revealing indications of PFAS in more than half. Bandages are only the latest consumer good found to contain the toxins. Often referred to as "forever chemicals," PFAS are synthetic compounds that are extremely persistent in the environment and human body, meaning they don't break down and can accumulate over time.


PFAS are known for making surfaces slippery and are found in a wide range of products, including nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics and water-repellent clothing, as well as in certain cosmetics and products that resist grease, water and oil, including food packaging. Now, it turns out, your bandages may also be contaminated.

Do Your Bandages Contain PFAS?

Mamavation sent 40 bandages from 18 brands to a laboratory certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for testing. The bandages were purchased from stores such as Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Target or Amazon. Indications of PFAS were found in 65% of the bandages tested. Further, out of the 40 samples, 26 detections revealed organic fluorine — a marker for PFAS — above 10 parts per million (ppm). "Ten parts per million is the limit of detection, and that's a large amount," study author Terrence Collins, professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, told TIME. "We know that with endocrine disruption, there is no safe dose. They fiddle with hormonal control." Collins said it's possible the chemicals could leach into the body not only via the pad placed over an open wound but also through the skin via the adhesive flaps. "You have to assume that the body will have an affinity for a multitude of PFAS compounds." Among bandages marketed to people with black or brown skin tones, 63% had indications of PFAS, including 10 detections out of 16 bandages tested with organic fluorine above 10 ppm. Overall, organic fluorine in the bandages ranged from 11 ppm to 328 ppm. "Because bandages are placed upon open wounds, it's troubling to learn that they may be also exposing children and adults to PFAS," said Linda Birnbaum, scientist emeritus and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "It's obvious from the data that PFAS are not needed for wound care, so it's important that the industry remove their presence to protect the public from PFAS and opt instead for PFAS-free materials."


While the lab tests didn't separate the adhesive from the bandages, PFAS was detected in the adhesive, sticky flaps of the bandages as well in the absorbent pads. "Even if you think this is a small exposure, you add up a lot of small exposures, [and] you have a big exposure," Phil Brown, director of Northeastern University's Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute. Band-Aid, Care Science, Curad and CVS Health were among the makers of bandages with some of the highest PFAS levels, though levels varied widely, even among different products made by the same overall brand.

Contact Lenses and Other PFAS Sources That May Surprise You

Bandages are just one route of PFAS exposure that people are exposed to regularly. Previous tested by Mamavation has revealed evidence of PFAS in a wide range of products, including: Contact lenses Pasta and tomato sauce Sports bras Tampons Dental floss Electrolytes Butter wrappers Fast food packaging Diapers Condoms Deodorants Period underwear Parchment paper Coffee filters Infant car seats Raincoats Bedding Children's clothing Athletic wear Toilet paper Cookware When Mamavation sent 18 contact lens brands to an EPA-certified laboratory, all of them tested positive for fluorine, at levels ranging from 105 to 20,700 ppm. While 44% of the contact lenses tested contained fluorine at a level over 4,000 ppm, 22% contained more than 18,000 ppm. The contact lenses with the highest organic fluorine levels were:


Alcon Air Optix Colors with Smartshield Technology (20,700 ppm) Alcon Total30 Contact Lenses for Daily Wear (20,400 ppm) Alcon Air Optix (No Hydraglide) for Astigmatism (20,000 ppm) What does this mean in terms of your health? Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences, said: "The presumption that these organic fiuorine levels measured in contact lenses are safe is laughable. Last summer the EPA issued health advisories in drinking for four common PFAS, ranging from 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2000 ppt. EPA considers exposure beneath these thresholds to be safe for drinking water. While comparing drinking levels in water to concentrations in contact lenses is like comparing apples to oranges, it's worth noting that all of the contact lenses tested exceeded 100 ppm, which is equivalent to 100,000,000 ppt, or 50,000 times higher than the highest level deemed safe in drinking water by the EPA." Birnbaum further told Mamavation: "Your eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Therefore, it's concerning to see the presence of organic fiuorine, which is likely a type of PFAS, found in all soft contact lens products tested. What about the idea of doing no harm? Do we have proof these products are safe? A lack of safety studies does not qualify as ‘safety,' which is what is happening here." Research that has been done on PFAS and vision is cause for concern. A large population-based study conducted in China found exposure to PFAS increased the risk of visual impairment. The researchers suggested PFAS may induce oxidative stress, with a detrimental effect on the eyes. "PFAS are proven pro-oxidants and exposure to these emerging pollutants elicits DNA damage, lipid peroxidation, generation of reactive of species (ROS), and inhibition of anti-oxidant enzymes, as well as triggers signaling cascades like apoptosis," they explained. Military members who were exposed to PFAS on military bases have also


suffered from a number of eye conditions, including myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia.

Most Kale Contaminated With Forever Chemicals

More than 12,000 chemicals make up the PFAS class. "What unites these chemicals is the presence of a carbon-fluorine bond which is one of the strongest in chemistry. This strength is also the source of these chemicals' hazard: PFAS chemicals are highly persistent in the environment and have been accumulating in soils, waterways, and oceans over decades," according to Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA). Exposure is so widespread that PFAS has been found in 97% of Americans. In the human body, PFAS have half-lives of two to five years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is testing foods from the general food supply to estimate U.S. consumers' PFAS exposure from foods. To uncover more about just how widespread PFAS contamination is in the food supply, ANH-USA analyzed conventionally grown and organic kale samples from four states — New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Two samples were purchased from a store in each state, some of them loose leaves and others pre-packaged in a plastic bag or container. Out of the eight samples, only one had no detectable PFAS. Among the others, the highest level of total PFAS was found in conventionally grown kale purchased in a Georgia Publix store. However, overall, PFAS levels were higher in organic kale samples than conventional samples. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set a tolerable weekly intake of 4.4 ng/kg bodyweight for PFAS. "Disturbingly, this is the equivalent of consuming two portions (67 g each) of kale with the same level as that found in the Publix store (GA) a week, implying any intake above this amount (from all sources) would equate to a potential health risk," according to ANH-USA.


Concerning levels of PFAS have been found in a wide variety of other foods as well, including peanut butter, pasta sauce and cooking oil, for instance. In another study, leafy greens grown within 10 miles of a PFAS plant contained very high amounts — and even chocolate cake was contaminated. One reason why the food supply is contaminated has to do with biosolids, toxic human waste sludge that may be contaminated with PFAS that's marketed as an affordable fertilizer and spread onto farmland. Water supplies and waterways may also be contaminated, such that eating even one freshwater fish annually could be dangerous.

PFAS Exposure May Cause Cancer, Reproductive Effects andMore

PFAS may lead to cancer by causing changes in epigenetics, immunosuppression, oxidative stress, inflammation or via hormone and metabolomic pathways. An accumulation of epigenetic events induced by PFAS exposure can "synergistically amplify tumorigenicity and cancer progression," researchers explained, adding that immune system suppression and chronic inflammation also likely play a role. Exposure to high levels of PFAS is also known to affect the immune system, and evidence from both human and animal studies shows that such exposure may reduce your resistance to infectious disease. The EPA also acknowledges that PFAS exposure is harmful and states that peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown exposure to PFAS may cause: Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations or behavioral changes Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney and testicular cancers Reduced ability of the body's immune system to fight infections, including


reduced vaccine response Interference with the body's natural hormones Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity

Tips to Reduce Your PFAS Exposure

Since PFAS have no taste or smell, you can't detect it in consumer goods. Filtering your drinking water is important to avoid this common route of exposure, as is avoiding stain- resistant, waterproof or nonstick products, most of which contain PFAS. To further reduce your exposure, the Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding: Items that have been pre-treated with stain repellants and opting out of such treatments when buying new furniture and carpets. Water- and/or stain-repellant clothing — One tipoff is when an item made with artificial fibers is described as "breathable." These are typically treated with PTFE. Items treated with flame retardant chemicals , which include a wide variety of baby items, padded furniture, mattresses and pillows. Instead, opt for naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and cotton. Fast food and carry out foods , as the wrappers are typically treated with PFAS. Microwave popcorn — PFAS may not only be present in the inner coating of the bag, it also may migrate to the oil from the packaging during heating. Instead, use "old- fashioned" stovetop popcorn. Nonstick cookware and other treated kitchen utensils. Oral-B Glide floss and any other personal care products containing PTFE or "fluoro" or "perfluoro" ingredients.


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