‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in Band-Aids: What This Means for You

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“Forever chemicals” have been found in popular bandages across the country, according to a study in partnership with Environmental Health News (EHN) and the product watchdog group Mamavation. In a report published Wednesday, April 3, the ENH shared that 26 out of 40 bandages sent for testing came back with detectable PFAs—accounting for a staggering 65 percent.

Mamavation noted that the “bandages [tested] were purchased & donated from community members between November 2022 and February 2024 from either Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Target, or from Amazon.”

The study examined organic fluorine levels as an indicator of PFAS contamination in bandages and levels detected in the tested bandages ranged from 11 ppm to 328 ppm. Mamavation categorized bandages with organic fluorine levels exceeding 100 ppm as “not our favorite,” those below 100 ppm as “better bandages,” and those under 10 ppm as “best.”

Notably, ENH reported that “ten out of 16 bandages with black and brown skin tones had indications of PFAS.” This includes bandages from Band-Aid, Care Science, Curad, CVS Health, Equate (Walmart), First Honey, Rite Aid, Solimo (Amazon), and Up & Up (Target).

The study cited the exact bandages that contained PFAs and they also included ones that didn’t show harmful levels of organic fluorine or any other harmful substances. Among them: Welly Waterproof Bravery Assorted Waterproof Bandages, Trutone Skin Tone Adhesive Bandages Dark Brown, and Patch Bamboo Bandages for Kids with Coconut Oil. (You can find the full list on the Mamavation website.)

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Per- and polyfluorinated substances—more colloquially dubbed “PFAS,” or “forever chemicals”—are a hot topic across industries. Despite their intimidating name, grasping what they are is relatively straightforward. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, they’re “widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time.”

While researchers are still investigating their potential risks to both human health and the environment, their presence continues to increase due to their slow degradation rate. Some states, including Minnesota, New York, and California, have taken measures to prevent PFA contamination by prohibiting the substance in some products. However, the reality is that they’ve already infiltrated most product categories, including women’s period products and cosmetics, such as waterproof mascara, just to name two.

Forever chemicals have been linked to adverse health outcomes, including an increased risk of developing asthma in children, the possibility of preterm babies among expecting mothers, and endocrine disruption, among others. Even more disturbing, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), found PFAs in the blood of a jarring 97 percent of Americans.

Given this context, it’s clear that PFAs in Band-Aids, or any bandage for that matter, aren’t welcome. “Because bandages are placed upon open wounds, it’s troubling to learn that they may be also exposing children and adults to PFAS,” Linda S. Birnbaum, scientist emeritus and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program and scholar at residence at Duke University, told Mamavation.

“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,” Birnbaum added.

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