Taking a Leadership Position on PFAS in Certified Products

Green Seal now prohibits all approximately 12,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in certified cleaning and personal care products, making Green Seal a leader in addressing these harmful “forever chemicals.” 

Green Seal’s standards have long prohibited long-chain PFAS formally classified as hazardous. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that short-chain PFAS known as “safer substitutes” have the same harmful health and environmental effects as the legacy PFAS they are replacing. Green Seal’s newly expanded prohibition on all PFAS in certified cleaning and personal care products promotes safer options for consumers and recognizes industry leaders who are taking important steps to protect human health and reduce environmental pollution.  

Green Seal is taking a product-category approach to developing PFAS restrictions as part of a multi-year phased initiative to ensure that certified products in all categories have leadership restrictions on PFAS. A product-category approach is critical to ensure our policy effectively addresses manufacturing and use considerations that vary by product category, including exposure pathways, functional performance, and regrettable substitutes. 

What are PFAS? 

PFAS are a large group of synthetically produced chemicals that have a history of use dating back to the 1940s. This class includes over 12,000 chemicals identified by the U.S. EPA CompTox PFAS Master List database — an evolving list that aggregates PFAS based on environmental occurrence, manufacturing process data, and testing programs from agencies across the globe. Today, PFAS are found in food packaging, coatings, personal care and cosmetics, paints, textiles, cookware, and even some cleaning products. 

PFAS have carbon-fluorine bonds that make them very stable and effective at repelling oil, water, and heat. Unfortunately, the same unique chemical structure that makes PFAS so effective is also what gives them the moniker “forever chemicals.”  

PFAS are persistent in the environment, with evidence that some chemicals are so resistant to degradation that they could persist for hundreds of years. They are now found in drinking water and bioaccumulate in both soil and humans, with some chemicals taking more than eight years to reach their half-life — or reduce their concentration by 50 percent in the human body. 

PFAS are associated with numerous adverse health effects, including impacts on the endocrine and reproductive systems; increased risks of prostate, testicular, and kidney cancer; and decreased immune responses — including our body’s ability to develop beneficial antibodies in response to vaccines. 

Providing Transparency  

It can be challenging for consumers and even manufacturers to be sure that products do not use PFAS. For example, PFAS are often used in raw materials – and those proprietary formulas are often not fully disclosed to the final manufacturer. Eliminating all PFAS from the supply chain for consumer and professional care products is a critical step in protecting human health and ending the environmental contamination caused by releases of these chemicals.  

To increase supply chain transparency and encourage the use of safer alternatives, Green Seal added criteria to prohibit PFAS in standards for the following product categories: 

Green Seal focused first on eliminating PFAS in formulas for certified cleaning and personal care products because PFAS is non-essential for the performance for these types of products. Manufacturers have one year to document that their certified products comply with the updated PFAS criteria. Green Seal will now turn its focus to establishing PFAS requirements for other product category standards.   

Green Seal implements standard development based on best international practices using a stakeholder-based approach and opportunities for public comment. We appreciate the time and expertise provided by our stakeholders in this process, including the San Francisco Department of the Environment, Ecolab, the Household and Commercial Products Association, and other subject matter experts and manufacturers.  

Visit Green Seal’s Standard Projects page to access the final PFAS requirements and standard development documentation.

Brittany Maule

Brittany Maule is the Director of Products and Standards at Green Seal.