What do pizza delivery boxes, waterproof mascara, Scotchgard, nonstick pans and microwavable popcorn bags all have in common?

PFAs — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — the potentially cancerous chemicals that are contaminating our local water supplies.

Notoriously dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, PFAs are costing local and regional water agencies countless dollars to clean up. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey even found that 97% of Americans have PFAs in their blood.

The unfortunate reality is that the list of everyday household items that contain PFAs is rather minor compared to the reality of chemical-containing products available on the market. In fact, one June 2021 study published by the American Chemical Society (ACS) found that of the 231 cosmetic products purchased in the U.S. and Canada, more than three-fourths of the waterproof mascaras, almost two-thirds of liquid lipsticks and foundations, and more than half of lip and eye liners suggested the presence of PFAs. But the report further states that the ingredient lists on most of these products did not disclose this, “exposing a gap in the U.S. and Canada labeling laws.” And that’s just beauty products...

We absolutely can — and should — vote with our dollars. But what happens when it’s not as simple as avoiding a restaurant because you disagree with the company’s message? Our supply is inundated with these chemicals, and oftentimes, they’re snuck in under the radar. It’s not reasonable to expect the average busy consumer with a job and family to know that “perfluoromethylcyclopentane” (found in shaving cream) sits under the PFAs umbrella — or which restaurants in town wrap their food in chemical-laced packages. As a result, consumers unknowingly support the products that unleash PFAs while simultaneously paying taxes to clean up the damage they cause.

Why not nip it in the bud?

According to Saferchemicals.org, the states of Washington, Maine, New York and Vermont have passed laws to ban PFAs in food packaging. Such bans have already gone into effect in San Francisco and Berkeley.

As the PFAS Action Act of 2021 moves forward, local municipalities might consider how they can further rid their cities of PFAs with local legislation. Let’s remove PFAs from our water, our products and our bodies.