(WSVN) - Researchers here in Florida are raising new concerns about one of the most common items found in every home. Here’s 7 Investigates Karen Hensel.

It is something we use everyday: toilet paper.

But a new study says there is an issue with the tissue.

Jake Thompson, University of Florida researcher: “The fact that it’s there to begin with is alarming.”

It is a group of toxic man-made chemicals known as PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have been linked to cancer and other health issues.

Thompson, a researcher at the University of Florida is studying PFAS.

Jake Thompson: “I saw that it’s used in paper manufacturing, so I got this idea that maybe it’s in toilet paper.

So how do the rolls get contaminated?

Researchers say PFAS are used at mills during the papermaking process, including toilet paper.

Jake Thompson: “So I grabbed a couple of samples just at my house and in the lab, and I did a quick extraction, and I saw that it was there.”

Thompson then recruited students and professors who collected toilet paper sold all over the world to be tested.

Jake Thompson: “There’s this trace amount that’s present in almost all of the samples that we tested.”

They also tested sewage sludge samples from eight wastewater treatment plants in Florida.

The chemicals were found in all eight.

Important because that sludge is often used on farms as fertilizer, potentially putting PFAS right back into our food supply.

Jake Thompson: “As environmental engineers, we think about the global impact implications of all this PFAS getting flushed down the toilet.”

And a lot is getting flushed…

The average American uses 57 pounds of toilet paper a year.

That adds up to more than 19 billion pounds of toilet paper flushed every year in the United States alone.

Jake Thompson: “I think it’s easy to see something like this and have that response of like, ‘Oh, come on. Like, are we going to all stop using toilet paper?’ And that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying it stems from a larger issue.”

A larger issue because PFAS chemicals are found everywhere.

They’re used to keep food from sticking to packaging and cookware, make clothes and carpet stain-resistant.

And, as 7 investigates has reported, it is even found in firefighter gear to make it water resistant.

Jake Thompson: “We need to think of as a society how we can limit the use of these compounds in a number of our consumer products.”

Of course, no one is saying to stop using toilet paper, but this new study does show yet another example of these dangerous chemicals seeping into our everyday lives.

American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) statement:

“PFAS (including 6:2 diPAP) is not used in the manufacture of toilet paper, or in the production of other tissue products in the United States.

“The University of Florida study examines concentration information in toilet paper for PFAS including PFOA, the most studied PFAS. However, the study fails to acknowledge that PFOA is widespread in the environment. In the study, toilet paper samples tested were close to or below the limit of detection, consistent with PFOA levels found in the environment and not attributable to the manufacturing process.

“Our industry is committed to product and environmental safety, and we continue to lead on product stewardship and innovation in the manufacture of sustainable and essential paper and tissue products.” 


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