Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals. Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Most UK waste still ends up in landfill, and this includes PFAS-containing products. Studies have shown that the liquid coming from landfills (known as leachate) often contain non-polymer PFAS chemicals. In the USA the total quantities were estimated at 563-638 kg in 2013. To properly break down PFAS chemicals high temperature (1000oC or more) incineration is recommended. Incineration of municipal waste does not necessarily reach these temperatures (min temp. required is 850oC), and the incomplete breakdown could release non-polymer PFAS.Wash and wear of clothing that contains PFAS-based stain-resistant or water repellent finishes release PFAS to the environment. Coatings are thought to lose effectiveness after 20-30 washes. This can include non-polymer PFAS, remnant from production or as a break-down product of side-chain polymers (Lassen et al. 2015). The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes releases PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. PFAS are very hard to remove during water treatment. Industrial emissions are estimated to be the biggest source of these chemicals to the environment.

L’Oréal eliminates PFAS from their cosmetic products

The cosmetic giant is one of 6 major companies to agree to a full phase-out of these harmful substances.

PFAS chemicals are not just used in uniforms – they are widespread in consumer products, including a variety of cosmetics.

The cosmetic brand L’Oréal has committed to phasing out PFAS chemistry from their products over the last year, as part of its global sustainability program.

They are one of 6 groups to have made similar commitments, after being contacted by the Swedish Nature Conservation Association NGO (Naturskyddsföreningen), who are asking companies to remove PFAS from cosmetic products.  Other committed retailers are H&M, Lumene, the Body Shop, Isadora and Kicks.

The Swedish Nature Conservation Association’s instagram campaign, Surfijs, lets customers highlight where they’ve found PFAS in cosmetic products (see example below).

The NGO are also partners in our POPFREE project, which is examining PFAS use across a spread of different products including cosmetics, textiles, ski-wax and paper/ packaging.

We are delighted to see major companies responding to the concerns of researchers and NGOs, by phasing out these harmful chemicals from their product lines.

Read more:
Chemical Watch article 
ChemSec article

Below is an example of the Surfijs project’s instagram feed – a clear message to companies that consumers care about what is in their products!