This doesn't seem great!
As if we needed more shit to deal with.
Published in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology this week is a new study suggesting that the toilet paper we use is full of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic "forever" chemicals that don't break down in landfills and therefore, well, last forever.
In recent years, PFAS — which, along with TP, are also found in the coating of nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and in some cosmetic and cleaning products — have made headlines as scientists discover more about how harmful they can be for both humans and the environment.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note in an advisory, recent studies have linked high levels of PFAS consumption with increased cholesterol and blood pressure levels, increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, decreased vaccine response in children, and more.
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency is, per the Associated Press, considering issuing restrictions on them.
Toilet Paper USA
Bringing it back around to the TP of it all, this new study is adding more fuel to the anti-PFAS fire after researchers at the University of Florida found that a specific type of these forever chemicals, known as disubstituted polyfluoroalkyl phosphates (diPAPs), are uber-common in both wastewater and in toilet paper, strongly suggesting a link between the two.
In the US and Canada, the ACS journal paper notes, toilet paper appears to result in four percent of the diPAP contamination in wastewater sludge — and that number is even higher in Europe, where it contributes to 35 percent of the "forever" chemicals in Swedish wastewater and up to a whopping 89 percent in France.
While these findings are indeed troubling, the CDC and other regulatory bodies have warned that more research needs to be conducted to figure out both how serious PFAS contamination really is and how best to handle it.
Even the EPA's potential regulation will focus more on removing the chemicals from water than on banning their use completely — and that process alone, critics told the AP, could cost billions of dollars.
In the meantime, it's clear enough that these chemicals are bad news, and it's up to the industry to self-regulate while the government catches up — though as we've learned from Big Oil, that process can take even more time.
More on toxic chemicals: Locals Near Ohio Toxic Train Crash Say They're Experiencing Weird Symptoms