Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in 65 Percent of Popular Bandage Brands

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Popular bandage brands may contain PFAS linked to endocrine disruption, thyroid disorders, infertility, and more, according to a new consumer report.

Popular BAND-AID and bandage brands may contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) called “forever chemicals” linked to endocrine disruption, thyroid disorders, infertility, and other health conditions, according to a recent consumer study.

Mamavation, in partnership with Environmental Health News, tested 40 bandages from 18 brands to see whether they contained forever chemicals. The lab, certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), found toxic levels of organic fluorine in 65 percent of the bandages tested, ranging from 11 parts per million (ppm) to 328 ppm. 

Additionally, 26 of the 40 bandages tested contained organic fluorine above 10 ppm, and 63 percent of bandages marketed to people of color with black and brown skin tones tested positive for PFAS. 

Terrence Collins, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry and director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University, scientifically reviewed the results. Mr. Collins told The Epoch Times in an email that he considers 100 ppm and even 10 ppm to be “massively unacceptable amounts of PFAS as these pertain to potential exposures from a bandaid.”

What Are ‘Forever Chemicals’?

PFAS are a class of more than 12,000 widely used synthetic chemicals resistant to water, stains, and heat. Because of these properties, PFAS are used in numerous commercial and industrial products such as food packaging, nonstick cookware, waterproof fabrics, personal care products, paints, plastics, waxes, cosmetics, medications, firefighting agents, dental floss, carpets, and more.

PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they are persistent and do not easily break down, but instead accumulate in humans, animals, and the environment. Humans are exposed to forever chemicals through contaminated food and water, products containing PFAS, and inhalation of dust and fumes from consumer and industrial products. A developing fetus can be exposed through the umbilical cord and placenta, and babies can be exposed through breast milk.
According to the Green Science Policy Institute, PFAS are added to adhesives, such as those found in bandages, to increase “wettability and penetration of the substrate,” which results in a stronger bond. 

“It’s very concerning to us that bandage brands would have indications of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ based on how they are used—on top of open wounds and skin lacerations,” Leah Segedie, author and editor-in-chief of Mamavation told The Epoch Times. 

Organic Fluorine Used to Detect PFAS

According to Mamavation, bandages were purchased or donated between November 2022 and February 2024 from Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Amazon, or the brand itself. The EPA-certified lab tested most products’ absorbent pads and adhesive flaps, but due to limited funding, some bandages were only tested in both places if PFAS were detected.

To identify PFAS in the bandages, the lab tested for the presence of organic fluorine because PFAS molecules have a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. If organic fluorine was detected in a sample, the product contained PFAS. If the total fluorine was 10 ppm or greater, scientists conducted further testing to determine the amount of organic fluorine it contained. Testing for organic fluorine can also capture other fluoropolymers, pharmaceuticals, and hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants—all of which are PFAS, according to Mamavation.

Scott Belcher, an associate professor with the Center for Environmental and Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University, told Mamavation fluoropolymers, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), are “extremely common forms of PFAS that could be contributing to the organic fluorine found in bandages.”

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The testing method used by Mamavation’s lab cannot directly identify a specific PFAS like PTFE. However, testing for total organic fluorine will account for all PFAS contaminants in bandages, including PTFE. Hence, the testing method serves as a good “spot check” for consumer products, he said.

“The Mamavation analyses tell us that PFAS compounds are in certain bandage products. The analyses don’t tell us what these compounds are, and the bandaid companies don’t disclose what they are,” Mr. Collins told The Epoch Times.

Study Results

According to the analysis, the following products were found to contain more than 250 ppm of organic fluorine in the absorbent pad or adhesive flaps:

  • Band-Aid OURTONE Flexible Frabic BR45 Bandages
  • Band-Aid OURTONE Flexible Fabric BR55 Bandages
  • Band-Aid OURTONE Flexible Fabric BR65 Bandages
  • Care Science Antibacterial Flexible Fabric Adhesive Bandages
  • Equate SKIN TONE Antibacterial Bandages Flexible Fabric (darkest shade)
  • UP & UP Flexible Fabric Bandages found at Target

The following products were found to contain more than 100 ppm of organic fluorine in the absorbent pad or adhesive flaps:

  • Band-Aid Flexible Fabric Comfortable Protection Bandages 
  • Curad Assorted Bandages 4-Sided Seal
  • CVS Health C60 Flexible Fabric Antibacterial Bandages
  • CVS Health C70 Flexible Fabric Sterile Bandages 
  • CVS Health C80 Flexible Fabric Antibacterial Bandages
  • Equate Flexible Fabric Bandages Antibacterial 
  • Equate SKIN TONE Antibacterial Bandages Flexible Fabric
  • First Honey Manuka Bandages
  • Rite Aid First Aid Advanced Antibacterial Fabric Adhesive Bandages
  • Solimo Flexible Fabric Adhesive Bandages

‘Better Bandages’

The following products labeled as “Better Bandages” by Mamavation were found to contain less than 100 ppm of organic fluorine in the absorbent pad or adhesive flaps:

  • Band-Aid Water Block Tough-Strips Waterproof Adhesive Bandages
  • Browndages Bandages for Brown Skin All One Size
  • CVS Health Gentle Fabric Hypoallergenic Bandages Large
  • CVS Health Waterproof Adhesive Bandages
  • CVS Health Waterproof Heavy Duty Antibacterial Bandages
  • Dealmed Flexible Fabric Bandages
  • Dry See Thin Film Waterproof Dressing Pad With Wetness Indicator
  • Rite Aid Smart-Flex Sterile Bandages

‘Best Bandages’

The following products labeled as “Best Bandages” by Mamavation did not test positive for the presence of fluorine using the lab’s 10 ppm cutoff:

  • 3M Micropore Surgical/Medical Tape
  • All Terrain Neon Kids Bandages
  • Band-Aid Hello Kitty Assorted Adhesive Bandages 
  • CVS Sterile Manuka Honey Sports Bandages
  • FEBU Organic Bamboo Strip Bandages
  • Patch Bamboo Bandages for Kids with Coconut Oil
  • TRU COLOUR Skin Tone Bandages Diversity in Healing (olive) 
  • TRU COLOUR Skin Tone Bandages Diversity in Healing (dark brown) 
  • TRU COLOUR Skin Tone Bandages Diversity in Healing (brown black)
  • Trutone Skin Tone Adhesive Bandages Dark Brown 
  • Trutone Skin Tone Adhesive Bandages Brown
  • Trutone Skin Tone Adhesive Bandages Olive
  • Welly Good Vibes Bravery Bandages 
  • Welly Waterproof Bravery Assorted Waterproof Bandages 

Forever Chemicals Linked to Serious Health Problems

A growing body of research links forever chemicals to cancer, birth defects, liver and kidney disease, thyroid dysfunction, endocrine disruption, poor immune function, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, and infertility

“Many PFAS compounds have been identified as endocrine disruptors of hormone action. In tiny amounts in the body, hormones control what developing humans become and also maintain conditions of optimal functioning,” Mr. Collins told The Epoch Times. 

“Some PFAS compounds are known to disrupt hormone action to correlate with impaired development where exposed creatures become something different from what undisrupted nature intended and with numerous chronic diseases. In most cases, PFAS chemicals are aptly named ‘forever chemicals’—once you are contaminated, you will likely take the PFAS to the grave,” Mr. Collins said. 

“Testing of the immense family of PFAS compounds for endocrine disruption is woefully inadequate. The regulatory control of endocrine disruptors is currently pitiful. We need to consider all PFAS compounds as suspect endocrine disruptors,” he added. 

A January 2023 study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials found PFAS in human cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue, suggesting these chemicals cross the blood-brain and blood-cerebrospinal fluid barriers.
In a 2022 analysis, scientists with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed 40 studies to examine the presence of PFAS and their health effects in umbilical cord blood. They found PFAS in 30,000 samples over a five-year period. Additionally, all 40 studies detected PFAS in cord blood. Out of 40 studies, 16 found an association between PFAS exposure in cord blood, changes in vital body molecules known as cord blood lipids, and harm to fetal and childhood development. At least 14 of the 40 studies found an association between PFAS in cord blood and an increased risk of health impacts later in life.

According to the EWG, many of the studies linked PFAS exposure in utero to health complications in unborn babies, young children, and adults later in life. Others linked cord blood exposure with disruptions to thyroid glands and microbial cells in the colon.

According to the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, animal studies have shown that PFAS can damage the liver and immune system. PFAS have also caused low birth weight, birth defects, delayed development, and newborn deaths in animal models. Furthermore, epidemiological evidence suggests exposure to PFAS may increase cholesterol levels, lower antibody responses to some vaccines, cause hypertension and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, cause changes in liver enzymes, and contribute to kidney and testicular cancers. 

“More research needs to be done to understand what these exposures mean to public health, but in the meantime, we recommend purchasing products that, according to our lab, do not have detections,” Ms. Segedie said. 

Likewise, Mr. Collins said that “given the balance of what we do know and, unacceptably, do not know,” he strongly recommends choosing bandaids that are not testing positive for PFAS on Mamavation’s analysis. 

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