Found in numerous products, such as waterproof outdoor gear and non-stick cookware, PFAS chemicals are beginning to be restricted in states such as Maine, while retailers such as REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods are taking steps to remove them from their merchandise. Short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” since they are unable to be broken down and accumulate in the water, environment, and body. 

Consumer concern over the health and environmental effects of PFAS continues to grow. Recent data from CivicScience show that an increasing number of Americans are aware of PFAS, up from June and now totaling more than two-thirds of the adult population. Over half (53%) of U.S. adults say they are at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about the effects of PFAS, also up from 47% in June.

A growing number of people are aware of PFAS, as well as becoming familiar with the class of chemicals. Today, 59% of adults describe their knowledge level as at least ‘somewhat familiar’ with PFAS, up from 54% in March 2023.

How likely are consumers to alter where they shop and what kinds of products they buy in order to limit the effects of PFAS? July data indicate that retailer response could have a significant impact. More than a third of respondents say they would be more likely to shop with a company or retailer that bans PFAS from their products, while half would be just as likely to continue shopping there. However, these numbers have remained relatively the same since June, even as awareness and concern has grown.

Likelihood to shop at a retailer banning PFAS goes hand-in-hand with sentiments on overall PFAS concern. Those who are the most concerned are also the most likely to change where they shop. Concern levels vary throughout the consumer population. A look at five major retailers shows that REI customers carry the most concern over PFAS, while Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods customers have less concern.

Data also show that those who are the most concerned about the presence of PFAS are also much more likely to be concerned about climate change and the environment, another factor that influences consumer behavior. Nearly 70% of adults who say they are ‘very concerned’ about PFAS are also very concerned about climate change. On the flip side, 60% of those ‘not at all concerned’ about PFAS are also not concerned about climate change.

Yet even as more consumers gain awareness about “forever chemicals,” the public continues to remain more concerned over the health and environmental effects of microplastics, the result of plastic production that is being documented across the planet and in the human body. Although the health risks are less known for microplastics than PFAS, U.S. consumers are more aware of and more concerned about microplastics – nearly 7-in-10 say they are concerned over their effects.

To track how your consumers are responding to PFAS and other current public health concerns, get in touch.