ATLANTA — Dangerous chemicals may be in your baby’s clothes and that bag of dog food.
They are called forever chemicals, and they are linked to cancer and other serious health problems. Forever chemicals are known as PFAS and are highly toxic.
New testing found them in baby supplies – everything from bedding to clothes to toys – and in the packaging of some popular brands of dog and cat food.
Ladarius Jackson told Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi that his dog Cecilia is full of energy as she plays fetch at midtown Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.
But what Jackson feeds her at night could slow her down with forever chemicals.
“It’s actually kind of scary to know that. I didn’t know that actually,” Jackson said.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit focused on protecting public health, had an independent lab test bags of seven popular pet food brands.
The tests found fluorine which indicates the presence of PFAS in all of them, including Cecilia’s kibble.
“That’s what I use. That’s exactly what I use,” Jackson said.
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Further testing found specific PFAS in four brands.
“PFAS is so toxic at such low levels that any level really is cause for concern,” said Sydney Evans with the Environmental Working Group.
She said forever chemicals build up in our bodies and our pets over time and never break down in the environment.
“There are quite a few health concerns. Earlier on studies were showing links to various kinds of cancer to thyroid issues,” said Evans.
The Pet Food Institute, which represents pet food makers, sent Channel 2 Action News a statement, saying:
“As pet food makers and pet owners themselves, Pet Food Institute members are committed to the production of safe, nutritious pet food that meets or exceeds all state and federal product safety regulations. PFI understands that some pet owners may have concerns about the presence of PFAS in pet food packaging. For decades, specific PFAS have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food contact applications, such as use in cookware (e.g., “Teflon”) and food packaging materials for their non-stick and oil- and water-repellant properties. It is important to note that before FDA approves food-contact ingredient applications, the agency requires the manufacturer to submit an extensive review of scientific data to ensure that all the substances present in the food-contact material are safe for their intended use. Food packaging with FDA-approved food contact substances is designed and manufactured to protect the safety and integrity of food, and pet food makers encourage packaging suppliers to continuously look for superior packaging options. We look forward to advancements and innovations in science that lead to the availability of alternative, vetted packaging materials that are approved by the FDA, like the materials currently in use.”
The nonprofit also sent 34 samples of baby items including clothes, bedding, and toys to a lab. Again, all contained fluorine.
Further testing found detectable levels of PFAS in 10 samples.
Forever chemicals end up as dust in our homes where we can breathe them.
The biggest concern is pets and children crawling around on the floor.
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“And with that hand-to-mouth behavior, exploring the world through their hands, through their mouths, playing with toys, crawling on the ground, they’re more likely to ingest the PFAS,” Evans said.
“It’s horrifying,” said Sally Baldwin, a mother and dog owner. “And the only thing we seem to be able to do is educate ourselves.”
Channel 2 Action News took the PFAS test results to Georgia U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also a father.
“I’ve got a 14-month-old baby girl, and it’s a worst nightmare for a parent,” Ossoff said.
He shared exclusively with Channel 2 Action News a letter he sent to the EPA Administrator urging the agency to do more to identify products with PFAS.
“I’m taking this action now because we need to understand definitely whether, in baby’s clothes or crib sheets or other products, there is hazards to their health posed by these PFAS chemicals,” Ossoff said.
Forever chemicals are in everything from some drinking water to personal care products.
But Evans said you should try to limit your exposure.
“All of that is going to make a difference for your exposure levels, for your body burden, and ultimately the risks for health effects in the end,” Evans said.
For our pets, holistic veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan said to do your homework.
“Definitely stop purchasing the foods that were found to have these very high levels of the PFAS in them and switch to something that is going to be a healthier alternative for your pet,” Morgan said.
That is something Jackson said he is going to do.
“Now, I know what to keep it away and let my friends know, ‘Hey, look, don’t use that,’” Jackson said.
Evans said you can reduce your exposure to PFAS by filtering your water.
You also can stay away from stain-resistant and waterproof products since they tend to have more.
You can cook at home to avoid PFAS in food wrappers and take-out containers.
You also can make dusting a regular part of your cleaning routine to get it out of your house.
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