It turns out the “forever chemicals”, thrust into the spotlight this week by government action to ban them, touch our lives – and our bottoms – in so many ways. That includes the toilet paper we buy, says a new study. The federal government is proposing for the first time to require that utilities remove toxic chemicals from drinking water that cause health problems, including certain types of cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency would require near-zero levels in water of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, part of a classification of chemicals known as PFAS, or “permanent chemicals.”
Related: Cancer-linked PFAS – known as ‘forever chemicals’ – could be banned from drinking water for the first time and: How to determine if your drinking water is safe As the EPA moves to ban ‘permanent chemicals,’ exposure to some chemicals has been linked to cancer, liver damage, and fertility and thyroid problems, as well as asthma and other health effects. Some studies. By at least one measurement, some level of PFAS is found in the bloodstream of 98% of Americans. According to at least one study, even very young children show traces of these chemicals in their bloodstream. But “forever chemicals” aren’t just a water problem. PFAS are ubiquitous in modern lifestyles. They are part of the manufacture of items including stain-resistant and waterproof clothing, cookware and dental floss. Earlier this year, the Thinx brand of period-protection underwear, billed as a clean and green answer to menstruation, settled a class-action lawsuit alleging PFAS exposure for users. The company denied the presence of these chemicals and said its manufacturing process continues to screen for PFAS. Add to the list of investigated products toilet paper PG, +0.03% KMB, -1.21% , whose chemical contamination was studied in a separate study published earlier this month. Read: World Water Day raises alarm for groundwater and ‘forever chemicals’ – How to invest A study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, found evidence of PFAS in toilet paper. An academic team led by researchers at the University of Florida concluded that our healthy go-to is the source of PFAS entering wastewater-processing systems. Read: At Procter & Gamble, surprised investor revolt over toilet paper’s forest impact, Jack Thompson, lead author of the study and a PhD student in environmental engineering at the University of Florida, studies PFAS. Because he knew PFAS was widely used in paper production, he wondered if it could be detected in toilet paper, which might share the same manufacturing plant. Thompson said on air at a Miami television station that he grabbed a few rolls from his home and his lab, did a quick extraction and could measure the PFAS. Then he expanded the study. From there, the researchers analyzed toilet paper samples from four regions — Africa, North America, South and Central America, and Western Europe — between November 2021 and August 2022. They found six types of PFAS in the toilet-paper samples and said one chemical in particular, 6:2 DPAP, was particularly prevalent. None of the brands have high concentrations of chemicals, they said. And while this particular study doesn’t dig into any health effects specifically linked to PFAS and toilet paper, the researchers say that based on their calculations, toilet paper is a likely contributor to overall PFAS in wastewater. Thompson told the Miami station that the findings don’t suggest everyone should stop using toilet paper. Instead, revealing how many chemicals exist in modern society, including toilet paper, should encourage businesses and consumers to think about how they can limit PFAS in a wide range of products.