Forever Chemicals is everywhere: Here are the 6 products most likely to be found in your home

When a person hears the phrase “chemicals forever,” they’re unlikely to immediately respond: “Mmm! I want that in my body!” But these so-called eternal chemicals—technically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyls (PFAS) and chemicals like bisphenols—are absolutely everywhere. It is a statistical certainty that a person reading this article has chemicals in their bloodstream and possibly other tissues all the time.

Substances such as PFAS and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) are considered eternal chemicals because they do not break down in the natural environment or in our own bodies. It is precisely this versatility that makes them so popular with companies; Smear some chemicals on a cooking pan and suddenly you have a non-stick pan. Lay them on a fabric and maybe your shirt will be stain resistant.

Although some regulators may want to monitor these chemicals to learn more about their potential health effects, they can be circumvented through a process known as “unfortunate substitution”: when a chemical is banned, scientists simply design a slightly different molecule, that fulfills the same basic function but has not been banned.

As a result of this process, it is now very likely that the products you use will permanently contain chemicals such as PFAS. PFAS are linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, liver disease, an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, and even fertility problems. According to the words of Dr. Sara Brosché, Scientific Advisor at the International Pollutants Elimination Network, the PFAS in our environment and bodies could create a future not dissimilar to dystopian science fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale.

“PFAS are linked to problems related to fertility and endocrine disruption,” Brosché said. She established that The Handmaid’s Tale is about a fertility crisis, caused in part by pollution, leading to a patriarchal and authoritarian society. “Not the whole scenario – of course that has many other implications – but if you just look at the premise: what if we couldn’t reproduce anymore?”

Here are six of the most common products that contain PFAS or other permanent chemicals.

Man opening a bag of microwave popcornMan opening a bag of microwave popcorn (Getty Images/Grace Cary)
If you want to enjoy quality sci-fi to escape the depressing reality of PFAS – be it Children of Men or something else – chances are you’ll enjoy it over a snack. If you decide to go for a snack product, you should probably stay away from microwaveable popcorn. According to a March 2023 study by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), all of the microwaveable popcorn brands surveyed in their survey — including the American Popcorn Company, which makes Jolly Time; Conagra doing Act II; Ramsey Popcorn making Cousin Willie’s; and Preferred Popcorn – had PFAS in their pockets. The lists of PFAS are like alphabet soup: Jolly Time and Act II pouches often contained perfluorobutyric acid (PFBA) and perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA); Cousin Willie’s pockets often contained fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs); and Preferred popcorn bags often contained FTOHs and PFHxA.
Fried egg on non-stick frying panFried egg in a nonstick skillet (Getty Images/Maryna Terletska)
Anyone who’s cooked with a sticky pan or saucepan knows how frustrating it is when food sticks to the utensil instead of ending up on the plate. When people try to imagine a pan or other cookware that doesn’t stick to food, they usually think of the word “Teflon”; However, it must be emphasized that there are countless other PFAS used in non-stick cookware that are not made of Teflon. However, they are all chemicals that humans do not want in their diet – and unfortunately, this wish often goes unfulfilled. A single surface crack in the Teflon coating of a frying pan can launch up to 9,100 plastic particles into the body, according to a 2022 study in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Of course, many of these particles contain the PFAS that the pan is designed to use to separate your food from your cookware.
pressure inputPrint Receipt (Getty Images/Image Source)
If you’ve ever purchased an item from a store that uses traditional receipt paper, you’ve probably noticed that this paper isn’t quite like regular paper. It tends to be shinier and firmer; Sometimes receipt paper is so slippery that it is difficult to write on it with a pen. That’s because 80% of the receipt paper used by major retailers contains a permanently toxic chemical called Bisphenol S (BPS) according to a study by the Ecology Center from March 2023. Other types of paper that can be described as “glossy” and “slippery” also contain PFAS, for example fast food packaging.

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People walking under umbrellas on a rainy day in ShibuyaPeople walking under umbrellas on a rainy day in Shibuya. (Getty Images/DuKai Photographer)

PFAS and other Forever chemicals are particularly popular with manufacturers because they can help make products waterproof. Because of this, umbrellas, shower curtains and other plastic products that need to be water resistant often contain one or more PFAS. Just the slip resistance you want on the top of your umbrella (but not under your feet) is a double edged sword with this particular product.

Makeup brushes and cosmeticsMakeup brushes and cosmetics (Getty Images/Songsak rohprasit)
In the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman, a villain terrorizes Gotham City by mixing dangerous chemicals into common household products like cosmetics. Instead of making people look or feel better, the new products would kill you and leave you with a crooked grin. While the situation isn’t nearly as dire when it comes to modern cosmetic products, the Food and Drug Administration website reports sums up the situation quite aptly: “Certain PFAS are also intentionally added as ingredients in some cosmetic products, including lotions, cleansers, nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick, eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara. These PFAS are used in cosmetics to condition and smoothen the skin, making it appear shiny or affecting the consistency and texture of the product.
Blue sofa with light blue carpetBlue sofa with light blue rug (Getty Images/Westend61)
At this point, you’ve probably figured out the pattern in many of the PFAS applications here – it’s often used to make products more resistant to stains of various types. This is particularly ironic in the case of carpets and furniture, because a Study from April 2023 in the AATCC Journal of Research found that these PFAS are not even the best way to make interior upholstery stain-resistant. In fact, simply creatively using existing and different types of fabrics in the manufacture of stain-resistant fabrics is just as effective, if not more effective than using PFAS – and of course with far less risk to the health of the people who use them.

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Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing

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