Chemicals in toilet paper are clogging up our bodies

What we flush down the toilet could be making us sick, according to a new study.

According to research published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, toilet paper could be a significant source of the toxic “forever chemicals” in wastewater. The findings raise public health concerns since wastewater and its by-products are frequently spread on agricultural fields to help grow crops.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a class of chemicals used for their waterproofing and stain-resistant properties. They have been linked to certain cancers, reproductive problems, and developmental issues. 

Scientists have known for years that wastewater is a slurry of PFAS from all different sources — soaps, makeup, and residues on clothing can all contain PFAS, which is washed down the drain every time someone showers or washes their clothes. But though PFAS are used in toilet paper manufacturing, toilet paper’s contribution to PFAS contamination in wastewater has been under-studied, according to the paper’s authors.