What products contain PFAS and what alternatives are there?

What products contain PFAS and what alternatives are there?

Many products, from every facet of our lives, may contain PFAS. Although these products are often used for no more than a few years, PFAS will remain in the environment for centuries. This article will introduce how PFAS threatens our health, the occasions and products we are most likely to come in contact with them, and how we can avoid them.

Why are PFAS called forever chemicals?

PFAS stands for ‘per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances,’ a term that includes thousands of chemical compounds. They all share the same characteristic of having bonds between fluorine atoms and carbon atoms. These bonds give PFAS water-, oil-, and stain-resistant, properties that other compounds do not have. Fat will form droplets on the surface of the PFAS coatings, allowing them to remain on the surface rather than soak in. PFAS are very stable compounds that do not react with other substances. This characteristic is a great advantage for product processing, but it becomes a big disadvantage in the environment because PFAS take several decades to break down. This is why they are referred to as “forever chemicals”.

How do PFAS affect our health?

Scientists are exploring different impacts of PFAS on people’s health. Current studies are mostly focused on two substances called PFOA and PFOS. For humanitarian reasons, all research involves animal testing or tracking people who have been exposed to PFOA and PFOS, thus it is difficult to determine exactly how PFAS affect our health. So far, we only understand that they may be associated with immunosuppression (such as reduced response to vaccinations), changes in liver function (such as increased cholesterol), lower birth weight in newborns, and kidney cancer. Limited evidence also indicates that PFAS may cause health problems including liver and thyroid diseases. In particular, when PFAS accumulate in pregnant women, they may harm the fetus through the placenta and breast milk. These are the most serious concerns about the adverse effects of PFAS on people’s health.

How are we exposed to PFAS?


Indoor exposure to PFAS at home mainly comes from the products we purchase and from drinking water. The most common exposure risks originate from cooking appliances and kitchenware, including baking trays, inner pots of electric cookers, and non-stick pans. These items often use PFAS coatings to enhance cooking convenience. However, a large amount of PFAS may be transferred to food when exposed to heat, fat, or when the surface is damaged, ultimately ending up in our bodies through ingestion, without us knowing about it.

In addition, leather or fabrics at home including sofas and carpets may also have been processed with PFAS to enhance their durability. Therefore, we are exposed to PFAS when touching this furniture. Last by not least, PFAS are ubiquitous in water; PFAS gradually accumulate in water everywhere through rainwater and reach all corners of the world via the water cycle. Filtration equipment in water filtration plants cannot remove PFAS, thus we are at risk of PFAS exposure from water every day.


Besides stainless steel, if the food packaging we use for takeout, such as paper cups, popcorn bags, straws, lunch boxes, and trays is made of paper, bamboo, plastic, or glass, they are likely to contain PFAS, meaning that takeout food is susceptible to PFAS exposure. Also, taking part in activities near airports or military bases risks PFAS exposure because firefighting foam is used frequently in such locations.

Top 60 products containing PFAS

Based on the foundation of Juliane Glüge, Martin Scheringer, Ian T. Cousins, Jamie C. DeWitt, Gretta Goldenman, Dorte Herzke, Rainer Lohmann, Carla A. Ng, Xenia Trier, and Zhanyun Wang. (2020) An overview of the uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts issue 12, we have compiled a list of 60 products across 12 categories, to briefly explain the reasons for adding PFAS to these products and whether there are ways to avoid exposure to related health risks.

PFAS in body care products


Body wash

Shampoos and body wash are personal hygiene products that mainly consist of water and surfactants. Surfactants endow shampoos and body wash with the ability to remove dirt and grime, and some are made using PFAS. To avoid coming in contact with PFAS in these products, you may choose natural soaps that are produced through saponification to replace shampoos and body wash for cleaning dirt and grime.

Dental floss

Some dental floss is infused with PFAS coatings to reduce friction between it and the teeth, making it less likely to break and more durable. Choose dental floss that is made of nylon or that is wax-coated, to prevent PFAS from rubbing off due to friction and entering our bodies.

Toilet paper

Toilet paper production requires a lot of water, and unfiltered water may contain PFAS. We can use toilet paper made of bamboo or other materials, or use toilet paper that has been tested to be PFAS-free instead.

Feminine hygiene products

PFAS helps to increase the absorbency of sanitary pads or tampons, as well as improving the stain-resistance of period underwear. We can reduce the use of period underwear and look for trusted third-party product testing in order to find PFAS-free female hygiene products.

PFAS in cosmetic products

Nail polish






Body fragrance



PFAS can change the thickness and texture of cosmetics to enhance their luster, and they also improve the water resistance and durability of cosmetics. Many mascaras, eyeshadows, concealers, powders, body fragrances, sunscreens, and lipsticks contain PFAS. Since these cosmetics are in direct contact with our skin or mucous membranes for long periods of time, the likelihood of PFAS entering our bodies is increased. To reduce our chances of PFAS exposure, we can avoid purchasing cosmetics with characteristics such as “water-resistant and long-lasting”, or search for cosmetics that are tested to be PFAS-free.

PFAS in electronic products

LCD screens

The production process of LCD screens requires the use of PFAS for optical etching. Although we do not come in contact with the screen’s internal components during use, PFAS can still end up in the environment during production or when the screen is discarded. We can replace LCD screens with LED screens to minimize the use of PFAS.

Smartphone screens

Glass screen protectors

To prevent fingerprint smudges, as well as to enhance the smoothness of touchscreen operation, PFAS are often added to smartphone screens or glass screen protectors. This is a form of PFAS exposure that we cannot avoid unless we wear gloves to operate the screen until the PFAS coatings are worn out.

Electronic products with semiconductors

PFAS are a necessity for semiconductor production, thus almost all electronic products will contain some amount of PFAS. Try to prolong the lifespan of electronic products and reduce the frequency of replacement to reduce exposure to PFAS.

PFAS in household items

Book cover protection

PFAS are added to some book covers to provide the paper with water- and stain-resistance, so avoid choosing books with glossy covers to stay away from PFAS.

Electric cables

PFAS are added to electric cables to increase their resistance to high temperatures and fire, and enhance their durability and resilience. Since using electric cables is unavoidable at home, some level of exposure to the PFAS they contain is inevitable.


Some pesticides use PFAS as an auxiliary agent, so reduce the use of pesticides at home as well as choosing to consume organic vegetables and fruits to avoid PFAS exposure.

Camera film

PFAS are added to camera films to prevent static electricity and spots, as well as to control the image uniformity at the edge of the film. Try to use electronic files to view or print photos on ordinary paper as much as possible. If you wish to print photos using special materials, keep them in photo frames or protective cases to prevent PFAS from being released through wear and tear.

Contact lenses

PFAS are used in contact lenses as a type of soft plastic material to keep the lenses smooth and comfortable by increasing oxygen permeability and preventing the growth of bacteria. We can replace contact lenses with physical glasses, only wearing contact lenses on special occasions such as when engaging in strenuous sports. This will decrease the risk of exposing our mucous membranes to high levels of PFAS.

PFAS in outdoor products

Ski wax

Most ski wax contains PFAS to reduce friction and increase water resistance. Ski wax will end up in the environment through wear and tear, and PFAS will appear in the drinking water downstream after the snow melts. Choose PFAS-free ski wax to avoid harming the environment.

Fluorocarbon fishing line

Fluorocarbon fishing line does not absorb water, stays invisible in water, and offers high tensile strength. Although fishing lines made of other materials may not be as effective, they can prevent PFAS from entering water or the fish we catch.

Sail and hull protection

Since the sails and hulls of boats are in contact with water for extended periods, they are frequently coated in a layer of PFAS for protection. Boating equipment manufacturers are developing alternative materials, but avoid purchasing or piloting sailboats for until such materials are on the market.

Sheepskin golf gloves

PFAS are added to sheepskin golf gloves for stain-resistance purposes, thus we can use plastic or other water-resistant materials as a replacement.

PFAS in home and furniture

Roof tiles and waterproof coatings

PFAS serve different purposes on different roofs. Besides being used in waterproof coatings on metal roofs to combat corrosion, they are also used as in sun-proofing coatings for asphalt shingles to increase the roof’s solar reflectance and keep the building cool. Also, flat or low-slope roofs require waterproof coatings containing PFAS to increase drainage performance.  We can avoid metal roof or flat roof designs, to drain water by gravity instead of using PFAS.

Oil paint

PFAS are used by many manufacturers as a surfactant in oil paints to enhance fluidity, radiance, and adhesion. We can reduce the number of paint layers applied to avoid PFAS exposure.

Waterproof paints for wooden flooring

Wooden floors require waterproof paint to prevent mold and grime, and PFAS are one of the most suitable materials for these purposes. Avoid using wooden floors to reduce the need for waterproof paints.

Sofa leather

Surfaces of wooden furniture

Carpet and floor mat

Household fabrics and wooden furniture such as “stain-resistant” sofas, carpets, and floor mats may contain PFAS, so avoid such products to prevent your skin from coming into direct contact with these types of furniture.

Glass surfaces of windows and mirrors

PFAS are added to windows and mirrors to make their surfaces easier to clean and durable. We are unable to determine the level of use of PFAS by manufacturers, hence we should cherish glass products to reduce the frequency of replacement.

PFAS in kitchen products

Baking trays

Non-stick pans

Inner pots of electric cookers

Waffle makers

To facilitate cooking, PFAS coatings are applied to the food contact surfaces of various kitchen utensils, thus all “non-stick” products are suspected to have PFAS. These common kitchen utensils include non-stick baking trays, pans, inner pots of electric cookers, and waffle makers. Although convenient to use, they also expose us to PFAS, thus avoiding such “non-stick” products offers the greatest protection for our health.

PFAS in clothing products

Leather shoes

The surface of leather shoes absorbs water easily, hence PFAS coatings are added to some leather shoes to make them waterproof or easier to clean. It is recommended to avoid waterproof leather shoes and waterproof sprays.


Since undergarments are in direct contact with our bodies, PFAS are blended into the textile materials by some manufacturers to make them more hygienic and easier to wash. Some companies, such as H&M, have banned PFAS completely, so choose undergarments from these companies to protect your safety.


If we want to avoid getting wet in the rain, we are forced to choose between stuffy and stiff raincoats or spraying our clothes with PFAS. However, PFAS substitute materials cannot stay dry in the rain for a long time, so we can only avoid going outdoors or wearing raincoats in the rain. Umbrellas have similar issues, except that they do not come in direct contact with our bodies.

PFAS in cleaning products

Carpet cleaners and indoor detergents

Washing powder

Dishwasher detergent

PFAS may be added to fabric or dish detergents as surfactants and can end up in the water cycle or remain on items during the washing process. We can choose detergents or soaps made of natural materials to replace artificial ones.

PFAS in vehicles

Cylinder parts

Fuel lines

Conductive paint

PFAS are added to some internal auto parts that come in direct contact with gasoline for a prolonged periods, to combat corrosion. Furthermore, PFAS are used during the electroplating process to control harmful smoke. These examples inevitably involve the use of PFAS.

Car waxes and polishes

PFAS may be added to car waxes and polishes to form a protective film against haze, grime, and static electricity, so detail your car less frequently to minimize the risk of PFAS exposure!

Windscreen washer fluid

Adding PFAS in windscreen washer fluids turns rainwater into small droplets that can simply roll off the windscreen, making them less likely to stick to the glass and thereby helping to improve safety when driving in the rain. We can choose silicone-based products instead. Although they are not as effective and durable as PFAS, they are considered sufficiently safe.

PFAS in medical devices

High-frequency electronic equipment

High-frequency precision medical equipment such as defibrillators, pacemakers, and MRIs require PFAS-based insulation materials. Although we do not come in direct contact with the internal components of these devices, PFAS may still be released into the air in small quantities when they are in use.


PFAS form part of the x-ray developer solution, do not ask for an x-ray exam unless your doctor has ordered one to minimize PFAS and radiation exposure.



Medical products such as catheters and stents that come in direct contact with human tissues are made using PFAS polymers to reduce allergic and adverse reactions. However, PFAS can also enter the human body through contact.

PFAS in foods


Many fast-food restaurants and coffee shops use paper cups to hold beverages. To make paper cups water-resistant and more durable, their coatings often contain PFAS. We can bring our own stainless-steel cups or simply drink fewer takeout beverages.


French fries


Restaurants often use paper boxes or paper bags to hold hamburgers, french fries, and salads. In order to withstand oil and grease without tearing, these paper food packaging must have a water- and oil-resistant coating, which may contain PFAS. When coming in contact with high temperatures and oil, more PFAS are likely to be released into food.


PFAS are added to microwave popcorn bags to prevent them from tearing when microwaved. The coating also prevents popcorn from sticking to the bags. However, a lot of heat and grease is released during the popcorn microwaving process, which in turn increases the concentration of PFAS in popcorn, so you should consume less microwave popcorn to avoid ingesting PFAS.

Freshwater fish

PFAS used during the production of nursing products, everyday products, medical products, consumer electronics, or cosmetics may be discharged into rivers, contaminating the water and freshwater fish with PFAS. Since we are unable to ascertain whether rivers where freshwater fish are caught are contaminated by PFAS, it is safer to consume saltwater fish instead.


PFAS are added to pizza boxes to prevent oil and grease from soaking through the container. We can use fewer pizza boxes by eating in more often or bringing our own stainless-steel lunch boxes for taking out pizza, avoiding the ingestion of PFAS.


PFAS may be added to candy wrappers to prevent sticking and allow us to enjoy them more conveniently. Avoid individually wrapped candy to lower the risk of PFAS exposure.

How to protect ourselves from PFAS?

Do not choose products marketed as “water-resistant” or “stain-resistant”

The most common use of PFAS is in water- and stain-proofing. Although silicone, plastic, and other alternatives are available, they are less effective and more expensive than PFAS. Besides, most regulations do not require manufacturers to disclose their ingredients, hence the safest way is to stay away from products marketed as “water resistant” or “stain-resistant.”

Use fewer cosmetics

To stay on our faces longer, PFAS are often added to cosmetic formulations, so using fewer cosmetics or shortening the time cosmetics remain on our faces will help us reduce PFAS exposure.

Avoid outdoor activities and medical treatments

Outdoor clothing and medical equipment all require the use of PFAS, thus we can only prevent PFAS exposure by avoiding outdoor activities and medical treatment.

Choose PFAS-free certified manufacturers such as renouvo

With the unprecedented interest in PFAS, manufacturers are compelled to develop PFAS-free replacement products that are certified by third-party testing agencies to guarantee that their final products do not contain PFAS. For example, renouvo’s products are made of sugarcane fiber using patented technology, endowing them with water resistance without the need for additional coatings. The test results indicate that its products are 100% PFAS-free, making them a safe, PFAS-free food packaging alternative.