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Cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ may have been detected in many popular band-aids available in India

Cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ may have been detected in many popular band-aids available in India
For generations, adhesive bandages have been a staple in every household's first aid kit, offering a quick and convenient solution to minor cuts and scrapes. However, a recent consumer report has unveiled a concerning truth about these seemingly innocuous products — they may harbour harmful chemicals that pose a risk to our health.

Testing 40 bandages, including popular brands sold in India such as Johnson & Johnson, the study found that an alarming 65% of the bandages contained detectable levels of phthalates, also known as PFAS, or "forever chemicals." These chemicals, typically added to plastics to make them flexible, can persist for decades inside our bodies, and have been linked to a range of health issues including cancer, reproductive problems, and thyroid disease.

New studies are discovering that PFAS — detected in the sticky portion and the adhesive pads of the bandages tested — are present in an increasing number of household items, including nonstick cookware, shampoos, makeup items, and even yoga pants. Evidence from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that virtually all Americans have some of it in their bodies.

What's particularly concerning is that since bandages are designed to be applied directly to open wounds, they inadvertently provide an easy route for these chemicals to enter the body. Even if these bandaids contain only a trace amount of the stuff, experts warn that these small exposures can add up, leading to significant health risks over time.

“Because bandages are placed upon open wounds, it’s troubling to learn that they may be also exposing children and adults to PFAS,” explains Linda Birnbaum, a health expert. “It’s obvious from the data that PFAS are not needed for wound care, so it’s important that the industry remove their presence to protect the public from PFAS and opt instead for PFAS-free materials.”

Moreover, the lack of transparency in the industry exacerbates the problem. While some companies may claim ignorance about the presence of PFAS in their products, the responsibility ultimately falls on manufacturers to ensure the safety of their offerings. Without federal regulations mandating transparency, consumers are left in the dark about the potential dangers lurking in everyday items like bandages.

It is discouraging to find yet another important product space, bandaids or bandages, containing PFAS compounds where transfers into users are conceivable,” laments Terrence Collins, another health expert. “PFAS compounds deserve the ‘forever chemicals’ name, such that when PFAS-containing bandaids and bandages are discarded post-use, the final resting places will be contaminated into the indefinite future.”

After this issue garnered significant attention, other health experts have weighed in, and reassured that there might not be complete cause for concern yet. A panel of reviewers from heathfeedback.org pointed out that only two PFAS types out of a thousand have been connected to a heightened cancer risk. Since the study did not sufficiently identify the types of PFAS found in the bandages, further research is necessary to conclude if they are actually cancer-causing.

The findings of this study can be accessed here.

The article has been edited since the original publishing to reflect new context.

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