Everyday exposures to PFAS chemicals
Highly fluorinated chemicals called PFAS are added to a wide variety of consumer products to make them non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant. They are found in carpets and upholstery, waterproof apparel, floor waxes, non-stick cookware, grease-proof food packaging, and even dental floss. They are also used in firefighting foams for putting out fuel fires.
People can be exposed to these chemicals from direct contact with products, through the air they breathe, or through the food they eat. They can also be exposed through drinking water. In fact, millions of Americans today are exposed to drinking water contaminated with PFAS from fire training areas, wastewater treatment plants, and industrial sites.
PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are among the most ubiquitous synthetic chemicals in the world. Approximately 98 percent of Americans have PFAS in their bodies. While their strong chemical bonds make them very effective at repelling water and oil even at high temperatures, these same characteristics also make PFAS extremely persistent, meaning they don’t break down.
Silent Spring Institute is studying this class of chemicals because some types of PFAS have been linked to cancers, including breast cancer, immunotoxicity in children, thyroid disease, reproductive problems, and other health effects. The Institute’s work is focused on understanding how people are exposed to PFAS and their impacts on health.
Findings from these studies and others will help us develop strategies and inform policies aimed at reducing people's exposure to these hazardous chemicals, while protecting the environment now and for generations to come.
Learn more about Silent Spring's research on PFAS: