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  • Writer's pictureJ.D. Solomon

5 Places You Will Find Forever Chemicals (PFAS) in Your Home

PFAS is in your home in consumer products like makeup, cookware, furniture, carpets, and rain gear.
PFAS is in your home in consumer products like makeup, cookware, furniture, carpets, and rain gear.

My family is shocked that PFAS is in makeup, cookware, furniture, carpets, and rain gear. They are in disbelief that there isn’t much that can be done about eliminating PFAS in those everyday products around our homes. That's because we find forever chemicals wherever there is a desire for something to be heat-resistant or water-resistant. Manufacturers from around the globe continue to meet demand. There are few practical safeguards beyond taking their word that they, and their entire supply chain, are not using some form of PFAS.

Here are a few places you will find PFAS in your home and a few ways you can try to reduce their impact.

What are PFAS chemicals?

According to USEPA, PFAS chemicals, also known as polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of manmade chemicals used in many industries and products since the 1940s. PFOA, PFOS, and GenX chemicals are contained in this group.

PFAS are known as "forever chemicals" because they linger in humans and the environment. Forever chemicals linger in the environment because they resist heat and moisture.

Long-term exposure to PFAS can lead to health problems, such as increased risk of some cancers, low birth weight, and problems with the thyroid and immune system. The qualifiers "can" and "may" are usually used because most human health effects are forecasted from laboratory or animal testing. That is amazing, given that the government has known about the potential dangers of PFAS for over 40 years.

PFAS in Household Products

Forever chemicals are found in many common household items. What can we do about it?

Some general advice is to research, read the product labels, and avoid bad products. The simple truth is that most manufacturers do not know every step of their manufacturing process. And even if they did, they are new derivations of PFAS chemicals being developed daily around the globe.

Remember, there are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and the list is growing.

1. Nonstick Cookware

Until 2013, Teflon products were made with PFOA, a common type of PFAS subject to tightening regulations. Most nonstick products made today are PFOA-free, but that doesn't mean they're untainted by new PFAS created to take its place. And some of those new PFAS, also known as "short-chain PFAS," have already been linked to similar potential health impacts in early research.

Teflon coatings on nonstick cookware break down at temperatures above 500°F., releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Inhaling these fumes may lead to polymer fume fever, or "Teflon flu." Polymer fume fever consists of temporary, flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, headache, and body aches. The short-term impacts resolve within 12 to 48 hours. However, PFAS does not break down in the body, so the long-term impacts are unknown.

Three Solutions

Use Alternatives: Consider using alternative cookware materials that are naturally nonstick, such as cast iron, stainless steel, or ceramic.

Avoid High Heat: If you're using nonstick cookware that claims to be PFAS-free, avoid cooking at extremely high temperatures.

Avoid Metal Utensils: Use utensils made of wood, silicone, or other non-metal materials. Metal utensils can scratch the cookware coating.

2. Stain-Resistant Furniture and Carpets

Stain-resistant coatings used on carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics may be laden with PFAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The chemicals in your furniture and carpets can contaminate the "house dust" you breathe in over time. Rugs are a major source of PFAS exposure for infants and toddlers, who are likely to put their hands in their mouths after touching the material.

Three Solutions

Avoid Aftermarket Treatments: Be cautious about applying aftermarket stain-resistant treatments to furniture and carpets.

Air Out New Furniture and Carpets: New furniture and carpets can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including PFAS chemicals.

Regular Cleaning: Regularly vacuum and wipe surfaces of your furniture and carpets to help reduce dust and particulates that could contain PFAS.

3. Water-Repellent Gear

Water-repellent gear is great for staying dry, but manufacturing it harms the environment. Several major rain gear brands have pledged to discontinue using PFAS-containing treatments, but it is nearly impossible for them (or you) to confirm this.

Three Solutions

Select Natural Fibers: Choose gear made from natural fibers like cotton, wool, or hemp. These materials are inherently less likely to be treated with PFAS-based water repellents.

Choose Alternative Treatments: Look for gear that uses alternative water-repellent treatments, such as wax.

Invest in high-quality gear: Long-lasting gear with natural fibers reduces the frequency of replacements, minimizing your overall environmental impact.

4. Grease-Resistant Packaging and Takeout Containers

Many fast-food chains — even the healthy ones — use packaging that contains PFAS to make paper or cardboard containers resistant to grease or oil.

Three Solutions

Transfer Food: Consider transferring the food to a PFAS-free container at home before microwaving or consuming it.

Avoid Microwave Use: Don’t microwave food in takeout containers. Some experts believe microwaving can cause chemicals to leach into your food.

Bring Your Own Containers: Consider bringing your own reusable containers for takeout. That’s weird, but some restaurants will cooperate.

5. Cosmetics, specially waterproof or long-lasting products

In a recent study, more than three-quarters of waterproof mascara, nearly two-thirds of foundations and liquid lipsticks, and more than half of eye and lip products had indicators of PFAS.

Many of those products were marketed as waterproof or long-lasting, which is the effect PFAS is usually used to achieve. In one study of 231 makeup products, more than half had high fluorine levels, an indicator that suggests the presence of PFAS.

Most of the products did not disclose PFAS on their labels so consumers may be unaware of the dangerous chemicals in their cosmetics.

Three Solutions

Read Ingredient Labels: Look for terms like "fluoro" or "perfluoro" in ingredient names, which could indicate the presence of PFAS-related chemicals.

Avoid "Long-Lasting" Claims: Some long-lasting or waterproof cosmetics might contain PFAS-like substances. Consider using products without extensive longevity claims.

Use Natural Cosmetics: Consider using cosmetics made from natural and organic ingredients. These products are less likely to contain synthetic chemicals, including PFAS.

How do we avoid PFAS?

There isn’t much that can be done about PFAS in consumer products. You will find "forever chemicals" in your home wherever you desire something to be heat-resistant or water-resistant. Manufacturers from around the globe will continue to meet demand. There are few practical safeguards beyond taking their word that they, and their entire supply chain, are not using some form of PFAS.

The primary strategy that USEPA is using is to make the waste stream regulations as tight as possible and then try to break the financial backs of the producers. Plus, USEPA and others are trying to find out the true human effects of PFAS chemicals (most of the stated effects come from the laboratory or models).

PFAS is everywhere – in our water, soil, and air – because society has willingly and legally used it for over 40 years. I am unsure if that makes PFAS forever, but more than 40 years is a long time.


JD Solomon Inc provides solutions for program development, asset management, and facilitation solutions at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the environment. Subscribe for monthly updates related to our firm.



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