2023: PFAS chemicals on your baby’s diapers

There are more than 7 million PFAS and over 21 million fluorinated compounds listed in PubChem (2023).
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2023: PFAS chemicals on your baby’s diapers

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PFAS chemicals on your baby’s diapers
New testing finds evidence of “forever chemicals” in popular brands of both disposable and reusable cloth diapers.

Environmental Health News - November 3, 2023

There’s nothing more important than making sure our babies are safe and healthy — and new testing from Mamavation has uncovered one more way to do that.

Partnering with EHN.org, the environmental wellness blog and community had 65 diapers and similar accessories from 40 different brands tested by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab and found levels of organic fluorine ranging from 10 parts per million (ppm) to 323 ppm. There were 15 detections — so 23% of the total products tested had evidence of PFAS.

Organic fluorine is a strong indicator of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals”— which have been linked to health effects including reduced immune system function and vaccine response, developmental and learning problems for infants and children , certain cancers , lowered fertility , endocrine disruption and other impacts.

“The EPA has set new concentration lifetime limits for the most toxic PFAS compounds in water that are so low that they are currently impossible to detect at any given time,” Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, told Mamavation. “We absolutely don’t want babies exposed to products containing 10 ppm of extractable organic fluorine, which is massive compared to the water standards.”

EHN.org partially funded the testing and Pete Myers, chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, which publishes Environmental Health News, reviewed the findings. The report builds EHN.org and Mamavation’s growing library of consumer products tested for evidence of PFAS, including products such as contact lenses , pasta and tomato sauces , sports bras , tampons , dental floss , electrolytes , butter wrappers and fast food packaging.

To see an in-depth look at why and how PFAS ends up in many of these products, see our investigation, PFAS on our shelves and in our bodies. https://www.ehn.org/pfas-chemicals-2656535588.html

The exposure risk to PFAS through the skin is not entirely clear, however, previous lab research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that PFAS skin exposure poses similar health risks as ingesting the chemicals via food or water.

In addition, babies and infants are the most vulnerable to health impacts from PFAS and others toxics.

"This is something that needs to be addressed immediately by the diaper industry. PFAS is not the type of chemical class that we can ignore around small infants," Linda Birnbaum, scientist emeritus and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & scholar in residence at Duke University, told Mamavation.

“They accumulate inside the body and are close to impossible to get rid of. We already know that exposure to these chemicals can cause problems in pregnant women, but the effects on babies at this young age are mostly unknown.”

What other harmful compounds are in diapers?

PFAS aren’t the only concern for parents: Mamavation pointed to other toxics such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, and a variety of anti-fungal agents, dyes and adhesives that often contain chemicals of concern. Some of these compounds would be listed as ingredients, but many would not.

Watch out for undisclosed fragrances , dyes, lotions and any waterproofing fabrics — all of which could be a sign of harmful compounds.

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