What are PFAS and how to avoid them

Debunking Sunscreen Myths

By Hanna Oltmanns - May 4, 2023

Sunscreen is a must-have when it comes to sun protection, but did you know that the type of sunscreen you use could impact your health and presist in the environment over many years?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” have been making headlines lately due to their potential harm to human health and the planet. These man-made chemicals have been in use since the 1940s. They are made of carbon and fluorine molecules that are attached together. Their strong bond makes other chemicals unable to break them apart, and for this reason they can be found in a wide range of products, including non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, and some cosmetics.

They have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer, high cholesterol, and birth defects. Unfortunately, these chemicals are found in a wide range of consumer products, including some sunscreens. According to a study conducted by the Nordic Council of Ministers 12,000 people die every year due to PFAS in the European Union alone.

The good news are: in January 2023, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands submitted a landmark proposal to restrict the use of 10,000 PFAS chemicals. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is currently investigating the request.

What are PFAS and how to avoid them

Why should you avoid exposure to PFAS?

“PFAS have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer, high cholesterol, and birth defects.”

PFAS are almost indestructible, which means they persist in the environment and pose an ongoing problem. They have been used in various products worldwide and are believed to cause various health problems such as impaired fertility, liver damage, cancer, developmental issues, and immune system disruption. 

Scientists are concerned that PFAS can build up in peoples’s bodies that are exposed to these chemicals over long periods of time. Since they don’t degrade easily, PFAS can accumulate in the food chain. The main way people are exposed to PFAS is through eating and drinking contaminated food and water.

One of the most concerning aspects of PFAS however is their persistence. They take more than a thousand years to break down and are not easy to get rid of. As a result, they can, potentially cause harmful long-term and dramatic health effects as already mentioned above in both humans and animals. This persistence also means that PFAS chemicals pose an issue that requires our immediate attention.

What are PFAS and how to avoid them

So, what can you do to limit your exposure to PFAS?

There are several simple steps that you can take to protect yourself and the environment. For starters, you can choose alternative products that do not contain PFAS, such as stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead of non-stick cookware, and avoid products with water- or stain-resistant coatings.

When it comes to sunscreen, choose a product that is free of PFAS. Be sure to avoid compounds such as “PAP” (polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters) or “PETE” (polytetrafluoroethylene). It’s important to note that choosing a PFAS-free sunscreen is not only beneficial for your own health and the environment, but also for the health of marine life. When you swim in the ocean or other bodies of water, your sunscreen can wash off and enter the water, potentially harming fish, coral, and other aquatic life. Studies have shown that PFAS chemicals can accumulate in fish and other animals for long periods of time, most probably leading to harmful effects on their health and the health of the ecosystems they inhabit.

“PFAS are almost indestructible which means they persist in the environment and pose an ongoing problem.”

What are PFAS and how to avoid them

Needless to say that all Suntribe sunscreens are free from harmful chemicals, including PFAS. Our natural sunscreens are formulated with only clean ingredients. We exclusively use Non-Nano mineral UV-filters to provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. To achieve natural water resistance we are using organic waxes. Plus, our sunscreens are packaged in sustainable packagings, so you can protect your skin and the environment at the same time.

Another way to limit your exposure to PFAS is to choose products that are certified as PFAS-free by third-party organizations, such as the Green Science Policy Institute or the Environmental Working Group. These organizations conduct independent testing on consumer products to ensure that they do not contain PFAS or other harmful chemicals.

What are PFAS and how to avoid them

In addition to choosing PFAS-free products, you can limit your exposure to PFAS by being mindful of your drinking water source. PFAS can enter drinking water sources through sewage, industrial discharge, firefighting foam, and other sources. If you’re concerned about PFAS in your water, you can have it tested by a professional laboratory. You can also choose to filter your water with a certified filter that is specifically designed to remove PFAS.

By taking these simple steps, you can help to reduce your exposure to PFAS and protect your health and the environment. Remember, small changes can have a big impact, so choose wisely when it comes to the products you use, the cosmetics you put on, and the food that you eat. By making conscious choices, we can all play a part in creating a healthier, more sustainable future.

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about the author

Hej, I’m Hanna. I love the outdoors and I am the first one to enjoy every beam of sunshine possible. Through traveling several countries over the past few years, I have become more and more aware of the great need for sustainability in every aspect of our daily life. Through working with Suntribe I am joining the movement of sustainable production of organic cosmetic and help to raise awareness about the issue of harmful chemicals in personal care products for humans and nature alike.