Nursing mothers were shocked when a study was released this week that found PFAS in 100% of breastmilk samples tested. So what is a nursing mother to do? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you useful topics like safest cookware without PFAS, safest parchment paper without PFAS, and safest air fryers without PFAS, now join us as we bring you this jaw-dropping study about PFAS found in breastmilk this year.
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PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Found in Breastmilk in 100% of Samples Meaning Infants Exposed
Our partners at Toxic-Free Future commissioned a study published in the Journal Environmental Sciences & Technology looking to see if PFAS, or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, were detectable in the breastmilk of American mothers. After collecting samples from 50 women around the Seattle, Washington region and sending them off to the lab to be analyzed, the results were shocking.
- 100% of breastmilk samples collected had detectable PFAS
- Results found 16 different PFAS compounds in breastmilk
- 12 compounds were detected in 50% of the breastmilk samples
- These levels are nearly 2,000 times higher than the level some public health advocates advise is safe for drinking water.
And instead of testing for fluorine, like we have in the past to see if PFAS was “intentionally added” to different products, they tested for 39 compounds directly, including 9 current-use compounds.
This study indicates that American infants are being exposed to PFAS chemicals through their mother’s breastmilk. It also suggests that current-use PFAS is actually building up in breastmilk instead of just being released through urine as the industry said it would.
“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.”
“These findings make it clear that the switch to newer PFAS over the last decade didn’t solve the problem,” explains Dr. Amina Salamova, study co-author and associate research scientist at Indiana University. “This study provides more evidence that current-use PFAS are building up in people. What this means is that we need to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals, not just legacy-use variations.”
What Should Nursing Mothers Do?
The idea that mothers could be passing PFAS chemicals on to their baby in their breastmilk is frightening, we know. But the answer is not to stop breastfeeding, but instead, actively avoid PFAS until after you stop nursing.
“While we know that PFAS chemicals may be harmful, it is important to remember that breast milk provides significant benefits to newborn and child health. Breast milk is still best for newborns” says Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, Pediatrician and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington and Seattle’s Children’s Research Institute.
Because PFAS is persistent and accumulates, it’s important to understand that avoiding it is important, even in small quantities because they can build up over time.
But in addition to that, avoidance needs to start at birth until after you are done breastfeeding in order to protect the next generation. That means its more important than ever to protect children from hormone-disrupting chemicals from birth.
However, if you want to see our infant formula investigation and recommendations on best brands, that is here.
PFAS “Forever Chemicals” are Persistent & Very Problematic to Public Health. You Don’t Want Them In Your Food, Clothing, Carpet, Food Packaging, Or Period Underwear
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that are used to provide stain resistance, grease resistance, and water resistance to different products. Sounds great until you find out how incredibly toxic to humans and the environment they also are.
These chemicals are found in food packaging, stain-resistant carpet, stain-resistant clothing, water repellent for outdoor gear like tents and surfboards, firefighting foam, waxes and sealants for flooring, non-stick cookware, and personal care products.
Some of the more problematic health impacts are below:
- reduction in immunity
- metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- thyroid disfunction
- reduced vaccination response
- ulcerative colitis
- low sperm count
- smaller penis size
- affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- increase cholesterol levels
- increase the risk of cancer like testicular, prostate and breast cancers
Based on the persistence of this chemical inside the body, it’s incredibly dangerous to be exposed throughout a lifetime because it will continue to build up, and now we know even the “current use” ones do as well. Therefore, it’s important to avoid these chemicals as much as possible.
What Are Federal & State Agencies Doing About “Forever Chemical” Contamination?
Currently, there are no national regulations to protect you and your family from the 9,000+ PFAS “forever chemicals” inside consumer products and water. There are certain states like Washington that are starting to regulate PFAS in food packaging and some other examples below.
- Under the Safer Products for Washington Act, policymakers are identifying products made with these harmful chemicals and moving to restrict them when safer alternatives are found.
- The European Union is following the precautionary approach moving now to ban chemicals that are not needed and can be substituted.
- Some states have some regulations for PFAS in water, however, no state is monitoring “current use” PFAS and including them in detection limits for water. Therefore, nursing mothers could be drinking “current use” PFAS chemicals even though that state has regulations to protect them because those regulations don’t protect them from ALL the chemicals.
- WARNING: The following states have NO regulation for PFAS in drinking water–Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
However, there are lots of bills coming up in different states that would seek to regulate these chemicals. But as things go, nothing of significance has happened yet, and to solve this problem will take public knowledge and pressure. To monitor this, we recommend following the work of Safer States here. Take a look at this list below and reach out to your state and federal representatives to support these efforts.
- 11 states have bills that aim to restrict PFAS in food packaging: AK, AZ, CT, IA, MD, MI, MN, OR, RI, VA, & VT
- 7 states have introduced legislation to restrict PFAS in firefighting foam: AK, CT, MA, ME, MD, MI, VT
- 6 states have introduced legislation to restrict PFAS in textiles, carpet, upholstery, and other fabrics: AK, MA, MD, ME, NY, VT
- California and Washington have identified food packaging, upholstery, and other textile products as significant sources of human and ecological exposures to PFAS and are working on identifying safer alternatives through regulatory processes.
- Safer States anticipates that at least 180 bills will be under consideration in 2021 and efforts to combat toxic PFAS chemicals will continue to be the most prevalent issue.
Which Brands Are Voluntarily Restricting PFAS?
Through the work of the Mind the Store campaign with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, several retailers have made strides in removing PFAS from the products in their store.
Fast Food & Fast Casual Restaurants
- Cava–Cava committed in August 2020 to eliminate PFAS from it’s food packaging by mid-2021
- Chipotle–Chipotle announced in March of 2020 it would phase out PFAS from food packaging in 2021. However, they aren’t done yet and are expected to finish by end of 2021
- Freshii–Freshii committed in August 2020 to transition to PFAS free molded fiber bowls by early 2021.
- McDonald’s–McDonald’s announced in January of 2021 to transition to PFAS free packaging globally by 2025.
- Panera–Panera Bread announced in the summer of 2020 it’s working on reformulating to PFAS free packaging like baugette bags by June 2020.
- Sweetgreen–Sweetgreen announced on March 2020 they would transition to PFAS free food packaging by end of 2020.
- Taco Bell–Taco Bell announced in January 2020 they would transition to PFAS free food packaing by 2025.
- Wendy’s–Wendy’s announced in April 2021 they would transition to PFAS free food pakcaing in the US. & Canada by the end of 2021.
- Ahold Delhaize–Ahold Delhaize, the 3rd largest dedicated U.S. grocery chain, announced in September 2019 they intend to reformulate to PFAS free private label food packaging but gave no timeline.
- Albertsons–Albertsons, the 2nd largest dedicated U.S. grocery chain, announced in September 2019 that it removed PFAS from cake plates in the bakery.
- Trader Joes–Trader Joe’s reported in December 2018 that it’s asking vendors to stop using PFAS in packaging. However, no timeline or details were provided.
- Whole Foods–Whole Foods adopted a restricted substance list that restricts intentionally added PFAS in all food service and exclusive brand packaing in late 2020.
- 7-Eleven–7-Eleven announced in 2020 it has started to replace food packaging with PFAS-Free packaging but gave no timeline of when this was to be completed.
- Amazon–Amazon announced a restricted substance list for certain private-label food-contact materials in 2020. This incorporates the following: Amazon Kitchen, Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Fresh and Fresh grocery delivery.
- Office Depot–Office Depot announced in early 2021 the released a restricted substance list showing PFAS retricted in disposable foodware, furniture & textiles.
- Rite Aid–Rite Aid published a restricted substance list for it’s own brand food-contact materials that restrict PFAS in early 2021.
- Staples–Staples published a restricted substance list in October 2019 that designated PFAS as a “priority for safer alternatives innovation in disposable foodware, furniture, and textiles.
- TJ Max–TJX announced that it plans “to switch out compostable serve-ware in our U.S. Corporate office cafeterias to ensure compostable serve-ware free from PFAS chemicals.” However, they made no plans to remove PFAS from textiles.
- The Home Depot–The Home Depot, the largest U.S. home improvement chain, annoucned September 2019 that they will stop purchasing for distribution any carpets or runs with PFAS by the end of 2019.
- Ikea–Ikea restricted PFAS in textile materials in it’s product back in 2016.
- Lowe’s–Lowe’s, the 2nd largest home improvement chain, announced a commitment in early 2021 that “all fabrics protection sprays are free of PFAS chemcials” and in October 2019 stated that their indoor residential carpet and rugs bought by Lowe’s for sale in its store would be free of PFAS by January 2020.
- Office Depot–Office Depot in early 2021 released a restricted substance list showing that PFAS is restricted in disposable foodware, furniture, and textiles.
- Rei Co-Op–REI announced in late 2020, they are restricted PFAS in all private-label and brand name ski wax products and treatments for gear and clothing by spring 2023.
- Target–Target expanded it’s policy to address PFAS as a class in textiles, building on it’s announcement that it had phased out a subset of PFAS class from own-brand textiles.
How to Avoid PFAS Chemicals? Mamavation Can Help!
I hate to break this to you, but PFAS “forever chemicals” are quite ubiquitous and found in lots of places around your home. Mamavation has been covering PFAS for several years so we can help you find products that do not contain them.
Here are some tips for keeping PFAS out of your home:
- Swap your Non-stick cookware to these healthier brands
- Find better small kitchen appliances without PFAS coated surfaces
- Most air fryers had PFAS coatings but not these brands
- Try to find alternatives to non-stick products whenever possible (especially if you have any small pets or immune-compromised family members. Birds are especially vulnerable).
- Avoid foods with packaging. Grease-proof food packaging (pizza boxes, cake cardboard bottoms, & french fry wrappers. Click here for a list of which grocery store chains are serving PFAS-free packing)
- Avoid fast food as much as possible. (Did you know we tested In-N-Out Burger wrappers the other day?)
- When you are baking, select this brand of parchment paper because we found no detectable PFAS when we lab tested it.
- Look into investing in a reverse osmosis water system for your home, especially if you live by a military base or airport where groundwater can be polluted.
- When purchasing furniture or carpet, avoid stain and dirt resistance treatments. (Like StainMaster)
- Even your mattress contains PFAS chemicals but these organic mattresses do not.
- Avoid buying clothing with labels indicating water, stain, or dirt repellant. (Like Patagonia jackets) So yes, good old-fashioned wool is better here.
- Avoid choosing personal care products with “fluoro” or “perfluoro” on the ingredient list. However, did you know that some tooth floss contains PFAS? These brands do not.
- Dust more often! FAS chemicals stick to dust particles so the more dust you have in your home, the more likely there is PFAS in the air you breathe. Click here for our FREE eBook on how to clean your indoor air