New study finds that newer PFAS chemicals build up in people, despite opposite claims made by the chemical industry
Toxic PFAS is used in food packaging, clothing, and other products, but national regulation lags behind state and corporate actions.
SEATTLE, WA—Today a new study finding toxic chemicals in 100% of breast milk samples tested was published in Environmental Science & Technology. Scientists from Toxic-Free Future, Indiana University, the University of Washington, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute led the research, which shows that toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated substances)—including new generation compounds currently in use—build up in people. Despite chemical industry assurances that current-use PFAS do not build up in people, the study finds detections of these chemicals in breast milk to be on the rise globally and doubling every four years.
Previous reports have confirmed that companies put PFAS chemicals in a wide range of everyday products, from food packaging and clothing to carpet and upholstery. States and retailers are starting to take action to restrict these chemicals in products, but federal regulations are needed to prevent the use of PFAS or other chemicals that can build up in breast milk in consumer products.
This study, the first since 2005 to analyze PFAS in breast milk from mothers in the United States, found that 50 out of 50 women tested positive for PFAS, with levels ranging from 52 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 500 ppt. Breast milk samples were tested for 39 different PFAS, including 9 current-use compounds. Results found that both current-use and phased-out PFAS contaminate breast milk, exposing nursing infants to the effects of toxic chemicals. A total of 16 PFAS were detected with 12 found in more than 50% of the samples. The levels of PFAS that are currently in use in a wide range of products are rising in breast milk.
“We now know that babies, along with nature’s perfect food, are getting toxic PFAS that can affect their immune systems and metabolism,” explains Toxic-Free Future science director and study co-author Erika Schreder. “We shouldn’t be finding any PFAS in breast milk and our findings make it clear that broader phaseouts are needed to protect babies and young children during the most vulnerable stages of life. Moms work hard to protect their babies, but big corporations are putting these, and other toxic chemicals that can contaminate breast milk, in products when safer options are available.”
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, 13 May 2021