What Are PFAS Chemicals?
PFAS Chemicals, or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a class of about 12,000 manmade substances, many of which are in widespread use since the 1950s due to “properties that [make] them nonstick, stain-repellent, waterproof or fire-resistant.”
Some PFAS chemicals, namely PFOS, PFOA, and LC-PFCAs, have been widely studied. Negative health and environmental effects have been well documented for these particular chemicals under the broader PFAS umbrella.
However, other PFAS chemicals – often manufactured to replace banned PFAS – have been less widely studied.
Existing and ongoing PFAS studies points to these other substances also being harmful.
While governments are taking notice and enacting legislation aimed at lessening exposure to PFAS and managing existing PFAS contamination, consumers can also educate themselves on the matter, and choose to avoid products that use PFAS, and shop brands that don’t use PFAS or are committed to phasing them out on a set timeline.
This article is meant to be a resource for parents and families specifically, with a goal of helping parents reduce their kids’ exposure to PFAS chemicals through safer baby gear, clothing, personal care products, and home products.
Banned PFAS Chemicals
Governments are cluing into the danger of PFAS exposure, and working with various levels of urgency to regulate or ban PFAS outright.
In the United States, PFAS bans are currently being enacted by state governments, with a flurry of activity in recent years. Some experts have tracked as many of 203 legislative bills relating to PFAS across 31 states as of 2022.
Maine was the first state to enact legislation, and it’s the most comprehensive, with an aim of eliminating all PFAS chemicals in consumer products by 2030.
As of January 2023, manufacturers theoretically must report PFAS chemicals in all products sold in Maine, although in practice many businesses have be granted a 6-month extension on this requirement. By 2030, products with intentionally added PFAS chemicals will be banned in Maine.
Other examples of recent pieces of US legislation around PFAS chemicals include:
- New York banned the use of intentionally-added PFAS chemicals in food packaging, as well as in paper plates, bowls and cups. The law took effect December 31, 2022.
- Hawaii has banned the “manufacture, sale, or distribution for sale or use of wraps and liners, plates, food boats, pizza boxes” containing PFAS, as well as its use in firefighting foams.
- In California, PFAS are covered by a patchwork of legislation. Bill AB-1200 requires manufactures to disclose intentionally-added PFAS chemicals in cookware, as well as prohibiting the sale or distribution of food packaging that contains and choose the least toxic alternative to PFAS chemicals in food packaging “regulated perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.” This law took effect January 1, 2023. Bill AB-652 (taking effect July 1, 2023) will take California’s fight against PFAS chemicals further, and prohibit the sale or distribution of “any new, not previously owned, juvenile product, as defined, that contains regulated perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)….” And Bill AB-2771 and AB-1817, which take effect January 1, 2025, will ban the sale of cosmetics and other personal care products and new textile products that have intentionally added PFAS chemicals.
- Washington State is currently in Stage 4 of a 4-stage process known as the Toxic Pollution Law, which includes PFAS. Stage 4 focuses on legislation to restrict the use of toxic chemicals in products or, alternatively, require reporting. Bill HB 1694, signed into law in 2022, will phase out PFAS chemicals in apparel, cookware, cosmetics, and firefighter personal protective equipment by 2025.
California’s Bill AB-652 in particular will likely have an impact on baby gear sold across the US, and takes effect July 1, 2023.
As of 2023, the EU is currently working on a widespread ban covering more than 10,000 PFAS chemicals, with draft legislation expected in 2025. The only use of PFAS that will be allowed will be those deemed essential for society.
Why Should You Pay Attention to Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?
PFAS chemicals are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their resistance to breaking down and persistence in the environment, water sources, food sources, and our own bodies.
Biomonitoring in France found virtually the entire population has detectable levels of PFOA and PFOS exposure, with another 7 of the measured PFAS chemicals found in approximately 40% of adults.
Stateside, a 2021 study published in Ecotoxicology and Public Health found 100% of breast milk samples collected from 50 nursing mothers in the United States contained at least one of 16 different PFAS chemicals measured.
And just as most people have a measurable level of PFAS in our bodies, so too do most animals. Recent studies found detectable levels in more than 300 different species around the world.
All this is to say: we likely all have some level of PFAS exposure simply by living.
But what does that mean for our health and that of our families?
What Are The Health Risks Of PFAS Exposure?
PFAS chemicals are nasty, and human health effects are broad (not to mention the effect of PFAS contamination on the environment).
According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the Centers for Disease Control), exposure to high levels of some PFAS chemicals may correlate with the following:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Risk of high blood pressure
- Increased risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and reduced birth weight in infants
- Reduced effectiveness of our immune system’s response to vaccines in children
- Changes in liver enzymes
Additional research has found additional risks of PFAS exposure, including but not limited to:
- Increased risk of certain types of cancers, including kidney and testicular, as well as liver, pancreatic, and breast cancers.
- Thyroid disease, including disruption of hormones and corresponding metabolic and developmental effects
- A suppressed immune system and higher rates of flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia in children
In other words? Exposure to PFAS is bad news for our health, and that of our kids and families. So how are we exposed to PFAS chemicals?
How Are We Exposed to PFAS Chemicals?
PFAS exposure is widespread and ubiquitous.
Population exposure is widespread through food, drinking water, consumer products, dust, soil and air.
PFAS are found in a massive range of the products we use everyday, including but not limited to:
- Teflon cookware and some cooking (parchment) paper
- Takeout and home food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags
- Gortex and other waterproof coatings on outdoor clothing and gear
- Stain proof or stain resistant products, such as carpets, tablecloths, mattress covers
- Cosmetics and personal care items
- Waxes (ski wax, floor wax)
They are also found in specialty industrial applications, including firefighting foam, pesticides, paints, etc.
PFAS Chemicals in Baby Gear and Kids Products
PFAS chemicals are a convenient way for companies to achieve stain resistance and water resistance: two properties parents often want when it comes to babies and young children due to diaper leaks, spit up, and spills.
To minimize PFAS exposure in your home and everyday life, consider the baby and kids products you’re using, as well as more obvious items, such as nonstick cookware.
PFAS Free Baby Gear
I’ve gone through and tried to make a fairly comprehensive list of PFAS free baby gear below, organized by category. I’ve done my best to ensure this info is correct, but things change, so you should double check!
A great cheat code is to shop on The Tot, which independently tests every product they sell before it reaches their website, and indicates specifically whether something is PFAS free or not on some products.
Note, this information is correct, to the best of my knowledge, in the US market. These findings may not apply in other countries, such as the UK or Canada.
PFAS in Car Seats: A List of PFAS Free Car Seats
All new Nuna Baby car seats are PFAS free and fire retardant free. Nuna’s entire line of car seats is non-toxic, including those listed below. Nuna is not available on Amazon at the time of writing, but you can buy it at The Tot, Nordstrom, and some products are also available at Pottery Barn Kids.
- Nuna Revv Convertible Car Seat: Check prices on The Tot, Nordstrom, and Pottery Barn Kids
- Nuna Exec All-in-One Convertible Car Seat: Check Prices on The Tot, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue
- Nuna Pipa Lite RX Infant Car Seat: Check Prices on The Tot, Nordstrom, and Pottery Barn Kids
- Nuna Pipa RX Infant Car Seat: Check Prices on The Tot, Nordstrom, and Pottery Barn Kids
- Nuna Rava Convertible Car Seat: Check Prices on The Tot, Nordstrom, and Pottery Barn Kids
- Nuna Aace Booster Seat: Check Prices on The Tot, Nordstrom, and Pottery Barn Kids
Clek Mammoth and Railroad Fabric
All Clek car seats are PFAS free. New car seats using the Railroad and Mammoth Fabrics are also fire retardant free. These include:
- Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat
- Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat (Also available at Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue)
- Clek Liing Infant Car Seat (Also available at Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue)
Be sure to select either the Mammoth color or the Railroad color if you want PFAS free AND fire retardant free.
All Maxi-Cosi car seats are PFAS free. New car seats using their PureCosi fabric are also fire retardant free. Maxi-Cosi car seats that use the PureCosi fabric include:
- Pria All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
- Coral™ XP Infant Car Seat
- Mico XP Max Car Seat
- Mico 30 Infant Car Seat
- Pria Max Convertible Car Seat and Booster
All Uppababy car seats are PFAS free. As of 2023, car seats using Uppababy’s safeTECH fabric and pureTECH fabric are also fire retardant free. The MESA V2, KNOX, and ALTA car seats have safeTECH options, and the MESA MAX and KNOX have pureTECH options.
- The MESA V2. At the time of writing this was sold out in a lot of places, but I did find it available at Neiman Marcus.
- The KNOX Convertible Car Seat is PFAS free and fire retardant free. Available from Pottery Barn Kids and Saks Fifth Avenue
- The ALTA Booster Seat in Jake, Morgan, Sasha, and Noa. Available at Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.
- MESA MAX Infant Car Seat. Available at Nordstrom and Pottery Barn Kids.
PFAS in Pack and Plays: PFAS Free Play Yards
Once again, Nuna tops the list as far as non toxic baby gear goes. Their entire current line of play yards are both PFAS and fire retardant free:
- Nuna Sena Aire (Read our Nuna Sena Aire Review): Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby
- Nuna Cove Aire Go: Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby
- The Guava Lotus Everywhere Travel Crib is PFAS and fire retardant free. I confirmed this with the company over email. You can read my full Guava Lotus review and results of my personal testing here, and can buy it on Amazon.
- The Uppababy REMI is also PFAS and fire retardant free. I confirmed this with UppaBaby over email. You can buy it on Amazon.
PFAS in Strollers: PFAS Free Strollers
Nuna Strollers PFAS Free
- Nuna Mixx Next All Terrain Stroller. Available at The Tot, Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Albee Baby
- Nuna Pepp Next Compact Stroller. Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby.
- Nuna TRVL Compact Stroller. Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Albee Baby.
- Nuna Demi Grow Single to Double Conversion Stroller. Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Albee Baby.
- Nuna Triv Compact Stroller. Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby.
Bumbleride Strollers are all PFAS Free
Bumbleride, like Nuna, have a reputation for leading the industry in creating non toxic baby products. All Bumbleride strollers are PFAS free and fire retardant free (in the US) since the company phased out the use of PFAS in 2020.
- Bumbleride Indie All Terrain (Single). Available at The Tot, Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby.
- Bumbleride Indie Twin. Available at Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby.
- Bumbleride Speed Jogging Stroller. Available at The Tot, Pottery Barn Kids, Nordstrom, and Albee Baby.
- Bumbleride Era Reversible City Stroller. Available at The Tot, Pottery Barn Kids,and Albee Baby.
PFAS Free Changing Pads
- Naturepedic’s Changing Pad is PFAS free
Look for bibs that aren’t “stain resistant” or “waterproof”; bibs that have third-party certifications such as Oeko-Tex Standard 100; or bibs that are 100% silicone.
Pottery Barn Kids has organic Muslin bandana bibs that are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified.
PFAS are banned in Oeko-Tex Class I products (intended for babies), but “Certifying to STANDARD 100 means the product has been tested for the listed substances. We do not certify the product as PFAS-free.” In fact, Oekto-Tex tests for some PFAS chemicals, but not all.
In practice, that means Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified products may be PFAS free, but it’s not a guarantee.
PFAS chemicals are ubiquitos, and this is just a small list of products you can opt for that will hopefully reduce your family’s PFAS exposure somewhat. Hopefully, as legislation forces the issue, more companies will have to offer PFAS free products, and I expect to see a big change in baby gear in 2023, due to California’s incoming laws on the issue.
Since drinking water is a major source of PFAS exposure, investing in a water filter that filters out PFAS chemicals is a great option. We use the Lifestraw pitcher, and love it. You can read my Lifestraw Home review here. According to the company, it does work to filter out PFAS.
I hope this has been helpful in your own journey to reduce PFAS exposure.