How YOUR home is crawling with ‘forever chemicals’: graphic reveals how no room is safe from toxic PFAS – which have been linked to cancer, infertility and birth defects

Concerns are mounting that America may have sleepwalked into a ‘forever chemical’ public health crisis.

The tiny manmade compounds – which got their name because they don’t break down in the body – were a dream for manufacturers when they were invented almost 100 years ago because of their durability.

Their ability to repel water, stains, grease and oil, as well as make cardboard and plastic packaging stronger made meant they were used to make a wide range of everyday products, from nonstick cookware to clothes, carpets, cosmetic products, children’s toys, food and bottled drinks.

Only in recent decades have the health effects of these toxic chemicals – known as PFAS – started to be understood, with research linking them to a variety of cancers, blood disorders, fertility problems and birth defects.

A report last month concluded that manufacturers of these chemicals tried to cover up the dangers they posed for more than 30 years, with internal documents showing that executives were first aware of the health risks in 1961 – but only alerted the world in the 1990s.

Now there are fears that the damage has already been done. Studies indicate half of the country’s drinking water is laced with the toxins, as many as 98 percent of Americans have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood, and, as this graphic shows, no room in the average household is completely free of the chemicals.

Below, looks at the household items that are most likely to be contaminated with PFAS:

Tap water

Almost half of all tap water sources in the US are laced with toxic PFAS ‘forever chemicals’, official estimates suggest. 

Frying pans and household items contain PFAS that leach into the water supply, and manufacturing plants also leak the chemicals into supplies.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind earlier this month, researchers from the US Geological Survey tested water sources at more than 700 locations across the country for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

The report found that 45 percent of drinking water sources contained at least one PFAS – with highest concentrations in the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and Central/Southern California. 

Experts said the findings were ‘frightening’ given the scale of the problem and the link between the toxins and serious health conditions like cancer, infertility, birth defects and hormone issues.

Food packaging

Everything from paper bags for cookies, french fries, fiber trays for kids meals, sandwich wrappers, pizza boxes and microwaveable popcorn bags may contain PFAS.

The chemicals are added for their non-stick and water resistant properties, helping to ensure foods are safe for consumption for longer.

But they can also leach into food products and then be consumed by people, leading to exposure to PFAS.

A report from Consumer Reports released in 2021 that tested food packaging from more than 100 chains found the chemicals lurking in wrappings from popular brands including McDonald’s, Burger King, Sweet Green and Chick-fil-A.

To limit exposure, in a separate report they recommended removing food from packaging as soon as possible and avoiding reheating food in takeout containers — which can lead them to release the chemicals.

Pots and pans

Many pots and pans are now coated with an anti-stick layer that is supposed to make cooking easier for consumers.

But these layers are normally made using PFAS chemicals, which are favored for their anti-stick properties.

During cooking, any scratch can lead to these coming off and becoming mixed with food. A study published last year found that a single scratch on a pan could release millions of toxic particles— including PFAS.

This then leads to the chemicals being eaten by people, exposing them to possible health problems. 

To avoid PFAS in pans, Consumer Reports recommended buying cookware made from ceramics, cast iron or carbon steel which should not contain PFAS.


Countless makeup products are also laced with PFAS, studies suggest, to make them easier to apply and give them a sheen.

A 2021 study  that looked at commonly used cosmetics in the US found that more than half — or 52 percent — contained PFAS. Products included foundations, long-lasting lipsticks and eye products like waterproof mascaras.

This poses a risk to consumers because the particles can leach through the skin and get into the bloodstream, carrying them to other organs in the body.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that in some cases PFAS may be listed on the labels of cosmetics under the lines: PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), perfluorooctyl triethoxysilane, perfluorononyl dimethicone, perfluorodecalin and perfluorohexane.

But in some cases amounts are too small to be put on the label or that they may have been added accidentally as a result of an impurity in raw materials.


PFAS chemicals have also got in to a number of items of clothing for their properties.

They are used in many coats for their ability to make them waterproof and also in yoga pants for their stain-resistant properties.

An investigation published last year found that one in four pairs of yoga pants contain PFAS while a separate study from the same year 75 percent of water or stain-resistant products also contain the chemicals.

These fabrics touch the skin, prompting the risk that PFAS could also be transferred through the skin into the bloodstream. But there are some suggestions that this does not happen often.


Because of the ubiquity of PFAS chemicals, nowadays they can be found in almost everything in the home.

Studies suggest they could be lurking in paints, varnish, carpets, electronics including TVs and cellphones and even dust to name just a few.

In kitchens, they have also been detected in sticky notes, candy wrappers and fish and dairy products that humans consume — likely picked up by the animals during life.

They are also all over bathrooms, having been spotted in some shampoos, dental flosses, toilet papers, nail polishes and cleaning products.

The spread is down to both their regular use in industrial processes and the fact that the ‘forever chemicals’ don’t breakdown, leading them to be reabsorbed into the food chain.

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