Read the full article by E.A. Crunden (E&E News)

“People may be unknowingly exposing themselves to a controversial group of toxic chemicals as they take steps to protect against the coronavirus.

New data published recently confirms that so-called forever chemicals are present in some face masks, including the kind used to protect people from Covid-19. While there have been prior confirmations that the chemicals, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are in face masks, the findings reinforce the challenges consumers face as they wait for EPA to crack down on the substances.

Published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the data offers some reassurance for the general public; the study’s authors concluded that most face masks tested were not a major source of PFAS exposure.

‘We didn’t really find a real smoking gun,’ said Graham Peaslee, a professor of physics and biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame who has spent years researching PFAS.

An author on the study, Peaslee said that the findings were reassuring in that sense. But he also said the testing raised questions.

Despite being a ‘very small study’ that would need to be massively expanded for a true sense of the results, Peaslee found the consistent presence of PFAS in masks was notable. Those items are worn regularly and then sent for disposal — leading to more PFAS in the environment and raising exposure levels for the public.

Using mass spectrometry, the researchers tested nine types of face masks for PFAS. Those tested included six reusable cloth masks, along with a surgical mask, an N95 mask and a heat-resistant mask meant for firefighters.

Drawing on animal studies to determine health problems based on chronic exposure, the researchers found that most of the masks would not exceed the dose considered safe. The exception was the mask marketed to firefighters, which exceeded the dose when worn for 10 hours.

Courtney Carignan, an exposure scientist and environmental epidemiologist who teaches at Michigan State University, conducted the exposure and risk assessment portion of the study. She emphasized the nuance inherent in the results.

‘Exposures from masks are small compared to other pathways such as drinking water,’ Carignan said, as she underscored the importance of wearing masks during a pandemic.

But she also acknowledged other concerns. For example, the study noted exposure and risk appeared higher for children, while extended periods of physical activity when masked could also increase the chance of inhalation exposure.

‘Several reviewers were concerned that the worst-case scenario I modeled, a toddler wearing a mask all school day, is not realistic,’ Carignan said. ‘However, it’s what my children and many others have been doing for over a year now. Most parents would likely prefer their child’s mask be free of any hazardous substances.'”…