Rolls of toilet paper move along a conveyor on the production line at a Corelex Shinei Co. factory in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. Japan's gross domestic product expanded at an annualized pace of 1.9% in the three months to June, faster than an earlier estimate of 1.3%, according to a revised report by the Cabinet Office on Wednesday. The figures showed extra government spending, business investment and private consumption buoyed growth.
So-called forever chemicals seem to be turning up everywhere. We wear them, clean our houses with them and, according to a new study, perhaps even wipe ourselves with them.
The report, published this week in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, has found evidence of per- or polyfluorinated chemicals - also known as PFAS - in toilet paper. An academic team led by researchers at the University of Florida concluded that the bathroom staple might be a source of PFAS entering wastewater treatment systems.
"PFAS are ubiquitous in so many consumer products," said Jake Thompson, the study's lead author and a PhD student in environmental engineering at the University of Florida. "I don't want the takeaway being that everyone has to stop using toilet paper. It's more that it's this issue that is pretty ingrained into society, and we have to think how we can limit its uses across a wide range of products."
For the study, researchers analyzed samples of toilet paper from four regions - Africa, North America, South and Central America and Western Europe - between November 2021 and August 2022. They detected six types of PFAS in the toilet paper samples and said one chemical in particular, 6:2 diPAP, was especially prevalent. No one brand stood out as having higher concentrations of the chemicals, according to Thompson.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers many PFAS hazardous: They take decades to break down naturally, can contaminate drinking water sources and tend to build up in wildlife ecosystems. Some studies have also highlighted a potential connection between PFAS and cancer and lowered fertility. The University of Florida researchers did not look into health risks, but found concentrations of 6:2 diPAP were recorded in existing analysis of wastewater samples in six countries; based on their calculations, researchers found that toilet paper was a likely contributor to overall PFAS in sewage.Linda Lee, an environmental chemistry professor at Purdue University, said the study's findings should be viewed cautiously, but overall highlight the need for increased efforts to replace PFAS in everyday products. "The big take-home message is to regulators and policymakers to focus their energy on the front end of the PFAS problem," she said in an email.