Our Members Asked:
PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances): How can I avoid PFAS in dental floss, food, water, and other products?
What are PFAS?
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals used in the manufacture of a wide range of industry and consumer products such as Teflon, dental floss and personal care products and food packaging. These chemicals break down slowly, or in some cases, not at all, and can accumulate in the environment (water, air, and soil). Animal studies and observational studies in people have linked exposure to certain PFAS to negative health effects such as altered immune and thyroid function, liver disease, lipid and insulin dysregulation, kidney disease, adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes such as low infant birth weights, and cancer (Fenton, Environ Toxicol Chem 2021; EPA 2018; CDC 2020). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are two of the most common, and most widely studied PFAS.
As discussed in the full answer, certain regulatory agencies have proposed and/or set reference values for toxicity for certain PFAS, although more research is needed to determine the exact effects of specific PFAS on human health, and at what exposure levels these may occur.
PFAS in Dental Floss and Other Dental Products
Some brands of dental floss and other dental products are made with PFAS, including the common PFAS known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), to reduce friction, while others are made with materials such as nylon, polyethylene, ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), silk, or bamboo fiber, none of which would be expected to contain PFAS. Unfortunately, labels on dental floss are not always clear as to whether or not they contain PFAS.
Sign in as a ConsumerLab member to find out which of dental flosses, flossers, and interdental brushes may contain PFAS and which do not. Also, learn how companies responded when we asked them if their dental flosses contain PFAS, and learn our Top Picks among PFAS-free dental floss, floss picks, and dental tape. Brands discussed include Bambo Earth, Boka Ela, Burst, Cocofloss, Colgate, Crest Glide, CVS Health, Dentek, Dessert Essence, Dr. Rams, drTung's, EcoRoots, Equate, Etee, GUM, Holy Rose, Johnson & Johnson (including Listerine and Reach), Kroger, Oral-B, Piico, Plackers, Platypus, Public Goods, Quip, RiseWell, Rite Aid, Signature Care, Smart Life, Smartly (Target), Solimo (Amazon), T Smile, The Doctor's, The Humble Company, Thrive Market, Tom's of Maine, Truecity, Up & Up (Target), Wellnesse, WooBamboo, and Wowe.
PFAS in Food, Water, and Air
Find out about PFAS in processed foods and seafoods, such as canned clams.
Also find out about PFAs, in drinking water from public water systems and private wells, as well as from bottled water. Also learn about the U.S. EPA's newly proposed federal regulation limiting PFAs in public drinking water, and how concentrations of PFAS in tap water from states including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, West Virginia, and others, compare to these standards. The details are all in the full answer.
Be sure to check out our Water Filter Pitcher Review for our Top Pick water filter pitcher for removing PFAS.
In addition the results of its expert testing, ConsumerLab uses only high-quality, evidence based, information sources. These sources include peer-reviewed studies and information from agencies such as the FDA and USDA, and the National Academy of Medicine. On evolving topics, studies from pre-print journals may be sourced. All of our content is reviewed by medical doctors and doctoral-level experts in pharmacology, toxicology, and chemistry. We continually update and medically review our information to keep our content trustworthy, accurate, and reliable. The following sources are referenced in this article:
- Boronow, J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2019
- CDC 2020
- Crest 2023
- EPA 2018
- EPA, 8/23/18
- EPA, Last updated 6/7/2023
- EU Strategy for PFAS, 12-2019
- Fenton, Environ Toxicol Chem 2021
- GAO, 2022
- Genualdi, Anal Bioanal Chem 2021
- Herkert, Environ Sci Technol Lett 2020
- Lamichhane, Environ Int 2021
- Mamavation/EHN 2022
- Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, accessed 4-11-22
- National Academies, Guidance on PFAS 2022
- Ong, J Clin Periodontol 1990
- Skedung, ChemRxiv 2023 – preprint
- Smalling, Environ Int 2023
- Supporting Information
- Tascon, Colombia Medica 2006
- Timmermann, J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2021
- Timshina, Chemosphere 2021
- Yankell, J Clin Dent 2002
- Yao, Environ Int 2020
- map and list
- map of PFAS contamination sites by state