During the COVID-19 pandemic, many mask and face shield wearers turned to anti-fogging sprays and cloths to manage condensation on their eyeglasses and face shields. However, recent studies show that these sprays could contain dangerously high levels of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”.
New research led by Duke University revealed that several leading brands of anti-fogging sprays contained fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs) and fluorotelomer ethoxylates (FTEOs), two types of PFAS. Exposure to forever chemicals has been linked to several potential health risks, including cancer. Due to the widespread application and use of forever chemicals, litigation over PFAS contamination is on the rise.
Anti-fogging sprays and cloths contain a high concentration of PFAS
A study from Duke University published in Environmental Science & Technology indicates that both anti-fog sprays and cloths could be harming product users. Below are the key takeaways of the study:
Anti-fogging sprays contain as much as 20.7 milligrams of PFAS per millimeter of solution.
Researchers call this a high concentration. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that the concentration of PFOA and PFOS (two similar types of PFAS) in drinking water should be limited to 70 parts per trillion.
FTOHs in these products could be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, then later break down as toxic PFAS; FTEOs found in these products all showed cell-altering cytotoxicity and adipogenic activity (per Duke University).
Scientists questioned the labels on these products, which indicate that they are safe and non-toxic.
While research on the health risks of PFAS remains limited, many indicators point to health concerns with these chemicals.
The dangers of PFAS
PFAS are found in many household goods, packaging materials, industrial processes, and many other applications. Despite their prevalence, many signals indicate that PFAS could be dangerous for human health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that prolonged exposure to PFAS could be linked to:
- Cancer, such as kidney and testicular cancer
- Shifts in liver enzymes
- Lowered immunity from vaccines among children
While some scientists suggest that current research on the health risks of forever chemicals remains limited, Harvard’s School of Public Health says that the dangers of these chemicals may be underestimated.
Indeed, regulatory action by the EPA validates many concerns related to forever chemicals and offers new federal commitments to environmental remediation. In its 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the EPA outlined new goals to fund research on the risks of PFAS, limit the chemicals’ applications, and clean up PFAS contamination.
PFAS liability cases are holding companies accountable
Many people claim to have faced health problems as a result of PFAS exposure, giving rise to an increasing range of liability claims against product makers and PFAS manufacturers.
A range of litigation is now pending, including:
A major multidistrict litigation (MDL) action in South Carolina: Plaintiffs argue that the PFAS found in firefighting foam caused property damage and bodily injury (per the United States District Court of South Carolina).
A state-level lawsuit in Michigan against DuPont and 3M: Plaintiffs argue that the defendants’ handling of PFAS lead to environmental contamination and human exposure to carcinogens (per the State of Michigan).