TIME – In case you’re counting, the average American will go through 26 kg (57 lbs) of toilet paper in a single year. [If true, that’s about one roll per person every three days.]
Multiply that by the 332 million people in the U.S. and you get more than 19 billion pounds of waste paper being flushed away annually. All by itself that represents a massive disposal and sanitation challenge.
But now, according to a paper just published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters there’s even more reason to be concerned:
Recycled toilet paper has twice the PFAS exposure
All of that toilet paper, including major brands sold around the world, turn out to be yet another source of PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Also known as “forever chemicals,” these ubiquitous manufacturing chemicals have been linked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to a range of health ills, including:
decreased fertility, hypertension in pregnant people, increased risk of certain cancers, developmental delays in children, low birthweight, hormonal irregularities, elevated cholesterol, reduced effectiveness of the immune system—leading to decreased efficacy of vaccines—and more.
PFAS are found pretty much everywhere: in soaps, shampoos, cleaning products, clothing, food packaging, plastics, firefighting foam, carpeting and, as recent studies have revealed, in menstrual products, including tampons, pads, and period underwear.
The chemicals contaminate the soil surrounding manufacturing plants and have been detected in the water supply—at least in communities that bother to look.
There is no national mandate that water supplies be screened for PFAS, but the chemical’s presence in toilet paper provides one more route it can take into groundwater, drinking water and, eventually into us.
There was little question that PFAS would turn up in toilet paper
The new study, led by Timothy Townsend of the department of environmental engineering sciences at the University of Florida in Gainesville, sampled both commercially available brands of toilet paper and wastewater sludge, looking for the presence of 34 different types of PFAS …