Product people use on a daily basis could pose serious health risk – ‘It’s disturbing’

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The Coronavirus pandemic has led to an explosion in the use of anti-fog sprays that prevent glasses from misting over when wearing a mask.

Researchers at Duke University have discovered that these anti-fogging sprays and cloths may contain potentially harmful chemicals.

Some types of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) have been tied to impaired immune function, cancer, thyroid disease and more.

The two chemicals found in nine commonly used anti-fogging products belong to the group of PFAS abut have not been tested for their safety.

The study was initiated by Professor Heather Stapleton, professor of environmental chemistry and health at Duke.

She first became concerned when reviewing the ingredient label on a bottle of anti-fogging spray she had purchased for her nine-year-old daughter.

Stapleton said: “Ironically, it was advertised as safe and nontoxic.

“It said to spray it on your glasses and use your fingers to rub it around.”

Stapleton continued: “It’s disturbing to think that products people have been using on a daily basis to help keep themselves safe during the COVID pandemic may be exposing them to a different risk.

“Because of COVID, more people than ever—including many medical professionals and other first-responders—are using these sprays and cloths to keep their glasses from fogging up when they wear masks or face shields.

“They deserve to know what’s in the products they’re using.”

Of the nine products (four sprays and five wipes) the researchers examined, only one listed its ingredients.

The remaining eight did not list ingredients and had to be analysed in a laboratory to identify the chemicals present.

The specific chemicals the researchers found were fluorotelomer alcohols and fluorotelomer ethoxylates (FTOHs and FTEOs) which are under researched members of the larger family of PFAS.

Lead author Nicholas Herkert, postdoctoral researcher at Duke, said “Our tests show the sprays contain up to 20.7 milligrams of PFAS per millilitre of solution, which is a pretty high concentration.”

The remaining eight did not list ingredients and had to be analysed in a laboratory to identify the chemicals present.

Herkert explains that the health effect of these chemicals is not currently known, but can be speculated about from the broader PFAS group.

He said: “If we were to assume that FTOHs and FTEOs have similar toxicity to PFOA and PFOS, then one spray from these bottles would expose you to PFAS at levels that are several orders of magnitude higher than you’d receive from drinking a litre of water that contains PFAS at the current EPA health advisory limit for safe consumption, which is 70 nanograms per litre.

“FTOHs and FTEOs could be metabolic disrupters, but the only way to tell is through in vivo testing on whole organisms.

“We only did in vitro testing.”

In petri dish studies the FTOHs and FTEOs from all four spray mixtures caused cells to die.

The researchers noted that these chemicals could also be broken down in the body to other chemicals that are known to be toxic.

PFAS have been found to have a stronger harmful effect on mothers and young children, impacting reproductive health of mothers and development in children.

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