Chemicals known as PFAS are present in several major carpet products sold in the United States, according to a new report by the Changing Markets Foundation in collaboration with other organizations and researchers.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have gained attention as they have been detected in drinking water in several states. PFAS have been widely used for decades in a variety of other commercial and industrial products, including firefighting foam and nonstick cookware.
The more widely studied types of PFAS have been linked to a variety of health effects. PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, for example, has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer and thyroid disease.
Researchers at the Department of Environment and Health at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Michigan-based nonprofit Ecology Center and the University of Notre Dame carried out the testing.
They found PFAS in five out of 12 carpet products tested. More than 25 parts per million of total fluorine was detected in a sixth carpet product, suggesting that it may contain PFAS, according to the report.
"Toxics in carpets make our homes, offices, and schools less healthy places to live, work, study, and play," Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center research director, said in a statement.
"Further, when carpet materials burn, as they did in California's recent fires, the combustion of hazardous chemicals increase the toxicity of the air people breathe. By designing carpets without toxic substances, we can better protect human health and the environment, while making it possible to recycle them into new, safer carpet."
Carpet samples from six of the biggest U.S. carpet manufacturers were tested for a variety of chemicals, according to the report's methodology. Researchers tested each manufacturer's best-selling carpet and a carpet that it marketed as the most environmentally friendly.
The products found to contain PFAS are manufactured by Milliken & Co., Mohawk Industries Inc., Shaw Industries Group Inc. and Tarkett SA.
The companies whose carpets were found to contain PFAS or total fluorine did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The researchers also found toxics including nonylphenol and phthalates in some of the carpet products they tested. "At least one toxic chemical was found in most carpets tested; many products included two or more," the report states.
Click here to read the report.