Study Found Some Bandage Brands Contain PFAS 'Forever Chemicals'?

Pixabay/Public Domain
Pixabay/Public Domain
  • PFAS is an acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, comprising nearly 15,000 synthetic chemicals, some of which have been linked to health concerns.

  • The so-called research was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, nor was it conducted at a vetted scientific institution.

  • Rather, the report was published by Mamavation, a self-described "green parenting community" consisting of "influencers … interested in wellness, environmentalism, and activism."

  • Furthermore, the group calculated levels of organic fluorine in the bandages, a measurement described as a "novel proxy" in which a positive result indicates – but does not prove – that PFAS chemicals may also be present.

In April 2024, several online publications – including The Guardian, Environmental Health News and Daily Mail – covered the findings of a report said to prove popular brands of bandages contained PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals." The results of this so-called "study" were also shared on social media, including X (formerly Twitter) and Reddit, as well as one video shared on TikTok on April 4, 2024, with a caption that read, "Band aids cause cancer." 

PFAS is an acronym for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, a "large, complex group" of nearly 15,000 synthetic chemicals, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Commonly used in consumer products since the 1950s, some PFAS have been linked to health concerns related to reproduction, obesity, growth, and different types of cancers. 

However, these reports lack important context about this supposed research. 

Here's what we know. 

A Self-Described 'Green Parenting Community'

The bandage report's publisher, Mamavation, is a self-described "green parenting community." It is not a vetted scientific or research institution but rather a "network" consisting of "influencers … interested in wellness, environmentalism, and activism." The group has conducted checks of other products, from contact lenses and condoms to tampons and sanitary pads.

However, the bandage report's findings were not published in a peer-reviewed journal, meaning the research did not undergo rigorous, standardized review to evaluate the research. (Check out this Snopes explainer for more on the peer-review process.

Report Lacks Scientific Corroboration

PFAS chemicals are carbon-based compounds that contain fluorine. The measurement of flourine is described as a "novel proxy" in which a positive result indicates — not proves — that PFAS chemicals may also be present. 

"This marker testing is likely to show the presence of PFAS," read the Mamavation report (emphasis added).

The group calculated levels of organic fluorine in bandages but did not directly determine the presence or amounts of PFAS chemicals. This was done by testing 40 bandages from 18 brands said to have been donated by community members between November 2022 and February 2024 from either Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Target or Amazon. 

Of those tested, the group found 26 detections of organic fluorine above 10 parts per million.

Some bandages were tested on the absorbent pad and adhesive flaps, but after running out of funds, the team said, it was "only able to test one part if there was a detection."

The Dangers of PFAS Chemicals

PFAS chemicals are used in various products, such as nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and firefighting foam. Because of their structural makeup, PFAS do not degrade easily in the environment, hence their nickname, "forever chemicals." Humans are exposed to PFAS by consuming contaminated food or water, using products made with PFAS, or breathing air that contains PFAS. According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most Americans have at least some trace of PFAS in their bloodstream. 

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the most well-studied PFAS, is classified as a human carcinogen. PFAS exposure has also been associated with increases in cholesterol levels, decreases in birth weight, lower antibody response to vaccines, kidney and testicular cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, and changes in liver enzymes, reports the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Sources:

"About Network." MAMAVATION, https://www.mamavation.com/about-network. Accessed 13 June 2024.

Dapcevich, Madison. "Snopes Tips: Why Care If Research Is 'Peer-Reviewed'?" Snopes, 30 Mar. 2022, https://www.snopes.com//news/2022/03/30/snopes-tips-why-care-if-research-is-peer-reviewed/.

Evidence of PFAS Found in Popular Bandage Brands Including Band-Aid - EHN. https://www.ehn.org/pfas-bandages-2667623874.html. Accessed 13 June 2024.

Kluger, Jeffrey. "PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' Are Turning Up in Menstrual Products. Here's What You Need to Know." TIME, 9 Feb. 2023, https://time.com/6254060/pfas-period-chemicals-underwear-tampons/.

"Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)." National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc. Accessed 13 June 2024.

Perkins, Tom. "Band-Aid, Walmart and CVS among Bandage Brands Containing Toxic PFAS." The Guardian, 5 Apr. 2024. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/apr/05/bandage-brands-toxic-pfas.

PFAS Exposure and Risk of Cancer - NCI. 15 Oct. 2020, https://dceg.cancer.gov/research/what-we-study/pfas.

PFAS in the US Population | ATSDR. 18 Jan. 2024, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/us-population.html.

PFAS Information for Clinicians - 2024 | ATSDR. 8 Feb. 2024, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/resources/pfas-information-for-clinicians.html.

Segedie, Leah. "Condoms & Lubricants Tested For Indications of PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' -- Guide." MAMAVATION, 6 Feb. 2024, https://www.mamavation.com/health/condoms-lubricants-pfas-forever-chemicals.html.

---. "Indications of PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' in Contact Lenses -- Report." MAMAVATION, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.mamavation.com/health/pfas-contact-lenses.html.

Senior, Cassidy Morrison. "Evidence of Cancer-Causing Forever Chemicals in Popular Bandage Brands." Mail Online, 3 Apr. 2024, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-13268155/Forever-chemicals-bandages-period-underwear.html.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@yaakov.renewed/video/7354031793219145003?_r=1&_t=8lGUtgtqGR4. Accessed 13 June 2024.