2023 Update on PFAS: The Forever Chemical

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If you have been following the controversy surrounding Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAS) found within cosmetics, you’re likely eager for an update. Since Think Dirty’s blog article on PFAS in 2021, there have been some significant changes and new information that are crucial for those who strive to maintain a clean, chemical-free lifestyle.

But before we dive into the updates, let’s take a closer look at PFAS, including what cosmetic products you can find them in and why they are in there in the first place.

What are PFAS?

Perfluoroalkyl acids (or substances) aren’t usually disclosed on cleaning products and cosmetics labels, but they most definitely should be. These manufactured chemicals have been used in tons of widely used products since the 1940s, but through research, it’s been found that they are highly toxic.

What makes them so toxic is that they do not break down easily, if at all. That’s where they get the name “forever chemical.” PFAS are most commonly found in waterproof mascaras and other makeup products that claim to be long-lasting. The synthetic chemical can remain in your body for years and accumulate over time.

High levels of PFAS in your body have been linked to congenital disabilities and increased risk of cancer and other unwanted health conditions.

Another study revealed that the skin absorption of PFAS can actually change the texture of one’s skin.

What products contain the “forever chemical”?

Now that you’re well aware of the chemical’s impacts, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the products that may contain PFAS. Determining which products they are hiding in can be tricky though, as they aren’t usually listed on the ingredients label. For example, researchers have found that cosmetic products with high levels of organic fluorine can indicate PFAS.

As a rule of thumb, organic and green beauty products are less likely to contain PFAS. However, it’s impossible to know for sure. So next time you’re looking at long-lasting lipstick or waterproof mascara, consider a product that is “green”.

Why do companies use PFAS?

Many beauty companies add PFAS to their products to make them smoother when applied, last longer when worn and are resistant to water. However, a lot of companies use third-party manufacturers, which means they can’t entirely control what goes into every product or what products are exposed to. Even though some smaller green beauty companies enlist the help of a third-party manufacturer, they tend to be more careful and use less harmful ingredients. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility for smaller “green” companies to use PFAS in their products. This is why it’s important to do your research before making a purchase.

An update on PFAS and related chemicals

Within the next couple of years, Canadian companies should expect an increase in the regulation of PFAS and similar synthetic substances to align with the existing and emerging regulation in Europe and the United States. As consumer awareness continues to grow, the threats that PFAS pose to our health will be pushed to the forefront of government discussions.

Currently, British Columbia and Ontario are leading the way in Canada regarding the regulation of PFAS. In the remaining provinces and territories, the use of PFAs still remains unregulated. But as Europe and the United States lead the way in prohibiting the manufacturing, use, and sale of PFAS, we can expect Canada will follow.

What’s incredibly impressive is California’s progress towards a total wipeout of PFAS. In September 2022, the state announced new laws that ban the sale of cosmetics, clothing, and health products that contain PFAS and related substances that are toxic to humans. This ban could have broader impacts as manufacturers will want to produce items that can be sold worldwide, not just in places yet to have bans on PFAS.

But until all cosmetics go PFAS-free, try to be mindful of the companies you support and purchase from. Green companies tend to be more concerned about what ingredients go into their products, meaning there’s a lesser chance the cosmetics you’re using contain harmful chemicals, like the ever so dreaded PFAS.

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2023 Update on PFAS: The Forever Chemical was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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