Are your bandages harming you? Bandages and the “Forever Chemicals” Dilemma


Bandages—those seemingly innocuous strips of fabric that help heal our wounds—may harbor a surprising danger: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as “forever chemicals.” These compounds have gained notoriety due to their persistence in the environment and potential health risks.

What Are Forever Chemicals?

PFAS are a class of synthetic chemicals used in various industrial and consumer products. They earned the nickname “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily and can persist in the environment for a long time.

There are over 12,000 types of PFAS, and they’re found in everyday items like food packaging, cleaning products, and even rainwater.

A recent study commissioned by Environmental Health News (EHN) and the consumer watchdog site Mamavation analyzed 40 different bandage products from various brands.

Shockingly, 65% of these bandages contained signs of PFAS chemicals. These compounds can be present in both the absorbent pad (which goes directly over the wound) and the adhesive flaps.

The purpose of adding PFAS to bandages is to resist moisture and enhance adhesive properties. However, this seemingly harmless feature comes with potential risks.

    Health Implications

    The health consequences of PFAS exposure are still not fully understood, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked them to several issues:

    Increased risk of certain cancers

    Decreased fertility

    High blood pressure in pregnant individuals

    Developmental delays and low birthweight in children

    Hormonal disruption

    High cholesterol

    Reduced effectiveness of the immune system

      Direct Contact with the Bloodstream

      Here’s the alarming part: When you apply a bandage to an open wound, any PFAS present can directly enter your bloodstream.

      • While some PFAS may be excreted in urine and menstrual blood, once they’re in the body, they can accumulate in tissues like the brain, liver, lung, bone, and kidney. 

      People of Color and Bandages

      • The study also found that 63% of bandages marketed to people of color (with black and brown skin tones) contained indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.”
      • This highlights the importance of considering diverse skin tones when assessing the safety of everyday products. The different types of bandages specialized for people of color: 1. Ebon-Aide Bandages:Ebon-Aide bandages were designed specifically for people of color. They came in multiple shades, including Black Licorice, Coffee Brown, Cinnamon, and Honey Beige. Some of their products can still be found on platforms like eBay and Amazon.(UK/EU Brand): 2. Nuditone is an up-and-coming brand that offers “wound discretion” to people of color in the UK and Europe. Band-Aid OurTone Bandages: 3. Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid brand recently launched the “OurTone” bandages, which come in three distinct shades of brown. 

      Bandages are a potential gateway for these persistent chemicals. As we continue to learn more about PFAS, it’s crucial to advocate for safer alternatives and raise awareness about their presence in everyday items.

      According to Scott Belcher, associate professor with the Center for Environmental & Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University, "Bandages...may have an organic fluorine content due...use of fluoropolymers...such as polytetrafluoroethylene." Separately, the report said consumer products tested for PFAS included contact lenses, tomato sauces, sports bras, butter wrappers, fast food packaging, diapers, condoms and deodorants.

      Where is PFAS banned?

      Apparel-Clothings: CA, CO, ME, NY and VT have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in apparel.
      Carpets/Rugs: Eight states including CA, CO, ME, MD, MN, NY, VT, and WA have adopted restrictions on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and/or aftermarket treatments. Cleaning Products: CO, ME, and MN have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in cleaning products.

      What countries are affected by PFAS? 
      Australia, China, the United States and parts of Europe are hotspots of high concentrations of PFAS. A separate study published just last year found that almost half of the tap water flowing into U.S. homes was estimated to have one or more PFAS.

      Image sourced from Google images 

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