Be wary of waterproof, and other tips to keep toxic chemicals out of your holiday gifts

PFAS are ubiquitous in consumer products. Here are some red flags to look for when shopping

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Evidence has been piling up showing that many everyday items found in US homes contain toxic chemicals that are linked to a whole host of serious health problems. Yet these chemicals are poorly regulated, making it hard for consumers to spot and avoid them.

Reporting on the chemical industry for the Guardian has helped me identify red flags I look for when shopping. Last Christmas, for example, my sister gave me a small, water-resistant backpack to carry my laptop on long bike trips. It was a thoughtful gift, but the “waterproof” label on the packaging tipped me to a potential danger. Companies commonly use highly toxic chemicals called PFAS to waterproof products, and a quick search revealed that the bag contained them. I politely explained the situation to my sister, returned the bag and found another that is PFAS-free.

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