Perfluorinated Substances in Household Goods and Food Contact Materials

Two studies undertaken independently of each other that examined various household products, outdoor clothing, and food contact materials have found somewhat high concentrations of various perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The studies were performed by German and Chinese scientists.

In one study, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute analyzed samples of cleaning materials, ski waxes, carpets, outdoor textiles, and baking or greaseproof paper and found persistent perfluorinated sulfone and carbonic acids, including perfluorooctanoic acid, which is considered carcinogenic. It’s even more astonishing that in almost all of the textile samples examined, the perfluorooctanoic acid exceeded the valid EU limits of 1 microgram per square meter for persistent organic pollutants.

A group of Chinese scientists found various fluorotelomer alcohols in food contact materials. The scientists believe that the values they measured would explain the increasing concentrations in human blood.
Both studies show that PFAS continue to be used just as before. They are attractive to manufacturers in the most varied industries because they repel water, fat, and soil. They are especially precarious when used in cooking utensils and grocery packings, such as pizza boxes or paper cups because some of these substances are suspected of being carcinogenic and toxic to reproduction. For example, perfluorooctanoic acid is considered a carcinogen (Category 2), toxic to reproduction (Category 1B), and, to have a specific target organ toxicity for the liver (with repeated exposure, Category 1).

No overview of the perfluorinated substances that are in use exists. The OECD estimates that some 800 substances belong to this group. The manufacture of plastics containing fluorine can release perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals into the environment, as shown in a study by the German Federal Environmental Agency. A good summary of the status quo of PFC in Germany can be found in the German government’s answer (in German only) to a query of the Bündnis90/Green Party in September 2015.

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