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Forever Chemicals in Indoor Air

Chart showing different sources of PFAS found indoors

graphic&Illustr/AdobeStock.com

University of Rhode Island research published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters describes a new technique for measuring the presence of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in indoor air, which found them in kindergarten classrooms, offices, laboratories and a home. We have known about toxic “forever chemicals” in food and drinking water, and it seems they are also ubiquitous in the air.

PFAS are a class of approximately 9,000 chemicals used to improve stain, water or heat resistance in products. The public health concern is that they don’t break down in the environment. PFAS accumulate in animals and humans and are linked to health impacts including cancer, birth defects and immune suppression.

The scientists think PFAS enter the atmosphere when compounds break off of treated products like coats or carpets and attach to dust. “It’s an underestimated and potentially important source of exposure to PFAS,” says study co-author and Green Science Policy Institute Senior Scientist Tom Bruton.

According to the Institute, schools and offices can protect students and employees by replacing carpeting, but that doesn’t prevent PFAS from entering via coats or shoes. Bruton writes, “As long as they continue to be used in products, we’ll all be eating, drinking and breathing PFAS. We need to turn off the tap and stop all unnecessary uses of PFAS as soon as possible.”