With the inclusion of our latest PFAS Movement members – the three American companies Naturepedic, Seventh Generation and Beautycounter – the total tally of companies actively speaking up against the use of PFAS has now reached 50.
“We congratulate the companies in the movement from diverse sectors and many countries, committed to eliminating dangerous PFAS chemicals. These businesses offer high-quality products that we wear on our bodies, decorate our homes with, spread on our skin, cook our food in, and give to our children. I see a powerful message for consumers, policymakers, and especially for chemical manufacturers. It’s not just desirable to remove PFAS from consumer goods – it’s required. Big change is underway, powered by a viable and growing business model”, says Daryl Ditz, Senior Business Advisor for ChemSec in the US.
As the movement grows, we thought it would be interesting to ask the companies about the biggest challenges connected to moving away from PFAS. Their answers weren’t really that surprising to us. Still, it’s useful to be able to confirm our assumptions – and obviously nice to pat ourselves on the back for being right all along.
What’s causing the most headache?
Top barriers for eliminating PFAS in products are lack of available alternatives (71% of respondents), cost of alternatives (43%), lack of knowledge (43%), and inadequate performance of alternatives (29%).
No surprise there, really. There are millions of different uses and applications connected to the over 4,000 PFAS chemicals in circulation, so it’s obvious that there’s a screaming demand for suitable alternatives.
Are you using?
When looking at the current use of PFAS by the companies in the movement, 46% say that they have eliminated PFAS in all products, while 37% state that at least one product or component contain it.
These are actually really good figures, considering it’s really challenging to rid your products and supply chain of PFAS use in many industries. Just 5% of the companies state that they don’t know if products contain PFAS, which – again – is a very encouraging number, since most companies don’t have a clue at all.
For those companies that have products containing PFAS, a majority say that the extent of the use is only in specific products, in old products that are on their way out, or due to contamination from other products produced in the same supply chain.
The PFAS problem
PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a chemical family consisting of almost 5,000 industrially produced chemicals.
In manufacturing, PFAS are favored for their durability and well-functioning properties. They provide features such as non-stick, water repellency and anti-grease to many types of products, including cosmetics, food packaging, frying pans, outdoor gear and firefighting foam.
The single biggest problem with PFAS is that, with very few exceptions, they are perfectly legal to use. This means that the brands and retailers who want to stop them from being used as ingredients in their products have very limited ways of communicating this in the global supply chain.
As long as there is not a restriction in place, suppliers will continue to use these very effective chemicals in manufacturing.
“99% of all humans, including fetuses, have measurable levels of PFAS in their bloodstreams”
The industrial use of PFAS – sometimes called “forever chemicals”, since they don’t degrade in nature – has been so prevalent in the last decades that 99% of all humans, including fetuses, have measurable levels of PFAS in their bloodstreams.
What is worrying is that human epidemiological studies have found associations between PFAS exposure and a number of health disorders, including various cancers, lowered birth weights and negative effects on the immune system.
What is ChemSec’s PFAS Movement?
ChemSec’s corporate initiative the PFAS Movement was started in 2020, with the aim of creating a network of companies that would like to see PFAS chemicals regulated more efficiently. As of September 2021, 50 companies have joined the movement.
This is what our newest members are saying:
”Banning PFAS chemicals from the beauty industry is the easy first step all brands should act on, immediately. Truly removing all fluorinated compounds from the beauty industry supply chain however, is where the hard work begins and why we’ve partnered with ChemSec and government leaders to tackle this widespread issue head on. Beautycounter is proud to join a growing list of companies supporting ChemSec’s campaign to ban PFAS”, says Lindsay Dahl, Senior Vice President of Social Mission at Beautycounter.
“Naturepedic salutes ChemSec for assembling like-minded companies who recognize that PFAS is nothing short of poison. In general, when it comes to questionable chemicals, the rule should be ‘guilty until proven innocent’. And, as a Board Certified Environmental Engineer with close to 50 years of experience chasing chemicals, when it comes to PFAS – they’re guilty”, says Barry Cik, Technical Director at Naturepedic.
Martin Wolf, Director of Sustainability & Authenticity at Seventh Generation, widens the perspective to include all hazardous chemicals, which we at ChemSec of course whole-heartedly agree with and applaud:
“It is heartening to see the response of businesses, state legislatures, firefighters, and organizations such as ChemSec to limit the harm caused by PFAS in consumer products and in the environment. But PFAS are not alone in presenting a risk of harm to human health and the environment. Hundreds of other substances are known to harm human and environmental health and are known to persist in the environment. We must address these other substances with the same vigor and determination that we have shown with PFAS.”