PFAS are Being Absorbed Though Your Skin

Toxic PFAS absorbed through skin at levels higher than previously thought

We all want to feel confident in our health choices, especially when it comes to what we put on our bodies. But recent studies have uncovered a surprising and somewhat unsettling fact: toxic PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” are being absorbed through our skin at higher levels than previously though.

This revelation suggests that our skin could be a significant source of exposure to these harmful substances. We’ll dive into what PFAS are, how they impact our health, and what steps you can take to reduce your exposure.

Understanding PFAS and Skin Absorption

What Are PFAS?

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of about 16,000 man-made chemicals used in various industries because of their resistance to water, stains, and heat. Often referred to as “forever chemicals,” they do not break down naturally and can accumulate in the environment and in our bodies over time.

According to the NIH, PFAS “keep food from sticking to cookware, make clothes and carpets resistant to stains, and create firefighting foam that is more effective. PFAS are used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics, and military.” In June 2022 the EPA released a report stating that there are no safe levels for human consumption of PFAS. Current peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that exposure to PFAS may lead to:

    •    Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women

    •    Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes

    •    Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers

    •    Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response

    •    Interference with the body’s natural hormones

    •    Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity

The Chemicals In Our Environment

PFAS are all around us every day. They are in our cosmetics, furniture, shampoo, toothpaste, cooking utensils, rain gear, food wrappers, and even our dental floss. One study indicated PFAS chemicals are in 98% of all Americans’ blood.

In 2019, researchers tested breast milk and found that every one of the women tested had PFAS in their breast milk. PFAS are endocrine and hormone disruptors. Babies born in the 21st century are already contaminated from birth.This doesn’t account for the micro plastics found in plastic baby bottles, sperm and food packaging.

How PFAS Enter the Body

PFAS can enter the body through several routes, with ingestion, inhalation, and dermal absorption being the most common. Traditionally, the primary concern has been ingestion, particularly through contaminated drinking water and food. However, recent studies highlight that skin absorption is another significant pathway.

When products containing PFAS, such as cosmetics, waterproof clothing, or personal care items, come into contact with our skin, these chemicals can penetrate the skin barrier and enter the bloodstream. Notably, research has shown that up to 60% of certain short-chain PFAS compounds can be absorbed through the skin. This is concerning because these shorter-chain PFAS are increasingly used in products, under the assumption they are safer.

Recent Findings on Skin Absorption

Recent studies have shed new light on the extent to which PFAS can be absorbed through the skin. Researchers applied samples of 17 different PFAS compounds to a three-dimensional tissue model and found substantial absorption rates. For example, the skin absorbed approximately 13.5% of PFOA, one of the most toxic and common kinds of PFAS.

Even more concerning, longer application times increased the absorption to 38%. Shorter-chain PFAS, often considered safer, were absorbed at even higher rates—up to nearly 60% for some compounds. These findings challenge the industry’s assumption that ionized PFAS molecules, which repel water, won’t be absorbed through the skin. The research indicates that skin exposure to PFAS could be a more significant source of contamination than previously understood, underscoring the need for further investigation and regulatory action to mitigate these risks.

READ MORE about this study at The Guardian