How Can I Limit Exposure to PFAS?

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The Environmental Protection Agency recently set groundbreaking new rules for six PFAS, or synthetic forever chemicals, in drinking water. The limits are from four to ten parts per trillion for PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, HFPO-DA (GenX) and PFBS. That’s six out of about 14,000 PFAS compounds.

So, what can we do about the remaining 13,994 that we can be exposed to in our lives and homes if we don’t live in one of the 11 states that established standards prior to the EPA’s announcement?

Silent Spring’s Detox Me
In 1993, a group of activists in Massachusetts were frustrated by the fact that decades of clinical research had not slowed rising incidence rates of breast cancer. In response, they founded a laboratory named Silent Spring Institute, in tribute to Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book, Silent Spring, launched the modern environmental movement.

Their free app, Detox Me, is almost an all-in-one advice compendium, which I have downloaded, that provides tips for categories of Children, Clothing, Personal Care, Home, Cleaning and Food and Drink. Touch each category to see top ten tips and a buying guide. The user can scan a product’s barcode to decode its label; if the product is not in the database, there’s an option to add the brand, product, category and subcategory and the app will seek information to add it to the database.

As a test, I scanned Mahatma® Jasmine Rice and Ben’s Original™ Long Grain and Wild Rice. Neither were in the database, so I added them. The former is packaged in plastic, with gluten free and non-GMO stickers. The Environmental Working Group gives it a rating of 4.4 out 10, noting this as a minus: “Rice and rice-based ingredients often have high concentrations of arsenic, which is a carcinogen and cardiovascular toxicant.” The latter is packaged in cardboard and notes “contains a bioengineered food ingredient” after the ingredient list; its EWG rating is 5 due to sugars and citric acid that might be derived from genetically engineered crops.

A scan of Orville Redenbacher’s Classic Bag Popcorn netted the warning “Switch from microwave popcorn to stovetop or use a popcorn maker.” My popcorn maker landed in the donate bin years ago with the advent of Orville’s invention.

In previous articles, HERLIFE has noted concerns with personal care products; here are more from Silent Spring.

Purchase and Use
Avoid products containing triclosan or triclocarban. Try alternatives to commercial products such as almond oil for moisturizer or coconut oil for conditioner. Avoid soaps and scrubs with microbeads. Nix sunscreens that contain chemicals such as benzophenone or octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate). Look for plant-based products with the USDA Organic label or those made with organic ingredients. In addition, recipes are provided for safer substitution to commercial products.

Since we’re looking for education about safer products, here are more sites.

Made Safe
From the website: “Products seeking the MADE SAFE (Made With Safe Ingredients™) seal are screened to validate that over 6,500 Banned/Restricted List substances have been avoided or constrained, thereby eliminating the worst hazards commonly found in products used in our homes and daily routines.” The stringent certification requires extreme transparency; companies must disclose all known added substances in a formulation, going far beyond basic ingredient list reporting. Every substance is considered in the context in which it will be used and must pass the screening process. Products certified include apparel, skin care, period and feminine care, pets and more.

It’s a browser extension and app that vets ingredients’ safety by matching them against thousands of hazardous chemicals identified by scientists and regulators around the world. If you’re shopping in store, it can suggest safer products offered in the same store. Take a photo of the product’s ingredient list and Clearya will analyze them for toxicity. I added the browser extension and tested a Sephora moisturizer. It displays a “Clearya button” that returned one possible allergen, two chemicals with restrictions and their details, and the generic ingredient “minerals.”

Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep®
EWG’s Skin Deep currently has a database containing 102,566 products, 3,836 brands and 2,330 EWG Verified® products. Verified means it meets EWG’s strict, scientific standards for transparency and health. EWG’s toxicologists, chemists and epidemiologists scrutinize every product, empowering you to purchase safer products. It rates products from Verified (safest) with the circular green EWG seal to 10, worst. Search a product and it will return ingredients in detail; I input one well-known product line with results from 3 to 8 for its contents. Another new product I’m using, touted as “good for your skin” and “safe to sleep in,” isn’t verified yet but its numbers are all 1.

Do your own research. You may be surprised at the results.