Oct 02, 2023

Five Ways To Limit Babies’ Exposure To PFAS

By Pat HouserFor Nature’s Sake

Patricia Houser

The states of California, Colorado and Maine recently passed laws that would ban the use of toxic PFAS chemicals in children’s products including pajamas, playmats and infant car seats.

For decades, manufacturers have been adding per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, to a range of consumer products, frequently to give them waterproof or stain resistant qualities. Manufacturers, it turns out, have known about the health risks caused by these same substances over most of those decades, and today the Centers for Disease Control’s website warns that babies’ exposure to PFAS can have long-term effects on a child’s immune’s system, affect growth and learning and increase the risk of cancer.

Connecticut, like many other states, is lagging in this category of consumer protection, which leaves new parents and caregivers to navigate a marketplace where even the choice of a baby’s bib can have health implications. Fortunately, certain research groups and public health organizations, including those cited below, are providing help in the form of online product ratings and steps for reducing chemical exposures in homes and workplaces.

The most frequent categories of expert advice for protecting children from PFAS, summarized in the following list, reflect the fact that babies can absorb dangerous chemicals through their skin, inhale it through dust and even ingest it.

Filter your water. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists drinking water first in their list of strategies for protecting babies from PFAS. No amount of PFAS in water is safe to consume, the EPA now says. Meanwhile, the USGS has found that 45 percent of the nation’s tap water is contaminated with one or more PFAS chemicals. And this will not change soon enough to ensure that the water for mixing with a child’s infant formula, for instance, is free of toxins.

The Environmental Working Group offers an online Guide to PFAS Water Filters at

Keep dust to a minimum. A Consumer Reports May 2022 article titled “How to Avoid PFAS” notes it is possible to limit chemical exposure from dust by using HEPA filters while vacuuming, changing filters on your heating and cooling units as recommended and dusting with wet cloths and a mop.

Cut back on carry-out meals and consider toxin levels in food packaging and cookware. A significant source of PFAS in people’s diets, studies show, is food packaging, take-out food and meals prepared with non-stick cookware. One place to compare grocery chains is the website, which assigns grades (from A to F) to retail shops based on the companies’ efforts to eliminate toxics in their products. That scoring shows Whole Foods with a solid A, for instance, and Trader Joes with a lower grade than Costco.

A Consumer Reports article titled “Dangerous PFAS chemicals are in your food packaging” names eight fast food companies with items whose wrappers were measured to have toxicity levels now illegal in California; among other things it shows that, at least until 2025, there’s an extra dose of PFAS that comes with those fries.

For cooking, health experts suggest avoiding frying pans and cookie sheets made with Teflon or other chemically engineered, non-stick, surfaces. The safest bet, they say, is to opt for stainless steel or cast-iron options; a Consumer Reports article from October 2022 lists safe cookware choices tested in their labs.

Choose PFAS-free furniture and carpets. Research shows that choosing healthy, PFAS-free furnishings, including carpets and sofas, greatly reduces PFAS in the air, including the dust.

To their credit, as of January 2020 Home Depot and Lowe’s sell only PFAS-free carpeting. The blog, My Chemical-Free House, has a feature on specific toxin-free carpet brands as well as an article on sofas. Notably, as a matter of company policy, Ikea doesn’t allow PFAS in any of its textiles, including sofas and throw pillows.

Choose bibs, child car seats, clothing, baby mats, etc. that are PFAS-free. For a look at which brands of various baby products were found to have the highest levels of PFAS, including one bib model with alarming toxicity, parents and caregivers can check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2022 report on measurements of PFAS in baby textile products. One go-to site for healthy alternatives is; check, for instance, their ratings of safe children’s clothing without PFAS.

The Ecology Center’s 2022 Car Seat Report is also a key resource, including a report card comparing infant car seats with the highest and lowest PFAS content.

Those able to tackle only one or two of the above strategies in the short run will still reduce the overall exposure and bodily accumulation, the so-called “body burden,” of these chemicals in a child. Every bit helps. And for those who simply want fewer things to think about, experts suggest a general rule for reducing PFAS in purchases is to reject anything that guarantees stainproof or water-resistant qualities if you can’t otherwise be sure of the content of a product.

That’s not to ignore the more widespread use of this menacing group of substances; TIME recently put out an article titled “All the Stuff in Your Home that Might Contain PFAS Chemicals.” Concerned for this long-term public health threat, 67 leading US scientists with an expertise in PFAS research sent a letter to the EPA in 2021 urging a ban on all use of this class of chemicals except essential uses.

Perhaps it’s time for Connecticut to follow Maine’s example. That state’s ban on PFAS, although it will only take effect in 2030, will actually go beyond children’s products to ban their unnecessary use in all products.

Patricia Houser, PhD, AICP, shares her exploration of local and regional environmental issues in this column as a member of the nonpartisan Milford Environmental Concerns Coalition.

By Pat HouserFor Nature’s SakeFilter your water.Keep dust to a minimum.Cut back on carry-out meals and consider toxin levels in food packaging and cookware.Choose PFAS-free furniture and carpets.Choose bibs, child car seats, clothing, baby mats, etc. that are PFAS-free.