8 min read

PFAS Chemicals, Explained

Written by:

Christi Farrell, RA, Leed GA


November 8, 2022

Image source:

Studio Marlowe

In the realm of interior design, the materials and substances used in furniture and finishes are crucial not only for aesthetic appeal but also for health.

One group of chemicals that have raised significant health concerns are PFAS chemicals.

This article delves into what PFAS chemicals are, their implications for healthy interior design, and explores ways to minimize their impact in your home.

What are PFAS Chemicals?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals.

Also known as "forever chemicals", PFAS have been manufactured and used in various industries around the world since the 1940s.

They are most notably used for their ability to resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.

This makes them popular in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and some firefighting foams.

Relevance in Healthy Interior Design and Furniture Selection

In interior design, PFAS chemicals can be found in a range of products including carpeting, upholstered furniture, wall paint, and performance fabrics that are treated for stain resistance.

While the functional benefits of PFAS are clear, their potential impact on human health and the environment has become a significant concern.

Research suggests that PFAS can accumulate in the human body over time and may lead to adverse health effects.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to certain PFAS can lead to reproductive and developmental issues, liver and kidney disease, and immune system effects.

The Implications of PFAS in Homes

  1. Air Quality: Products treated with PFAS can release particles into the air, affecting indoor air quality.
  2. Direct Contact: Regular contact with PFAS-treated fabrics or surfaces can lead to skin exposure.
  3. Water Contamination: PFAS can leach into groundwater from treated products disposed of in landfills.

How to Minimize Exposure to PFAS in Interior Design

Furniture Selection

Opt for furniture that is explicitly labeled as PFAS-free.

Many manufacturers are now offering alternatives that do not use these chemicals in their production process.

Flooring and Carpets

Choose hardwood floors or tiles over carpet where possible, as many carpets are treated with PFAS for stain resistance.

There are also PFAS-free carpets available made from natural or untreated fibers.

Wall Paints and Finishes

Select paints and finishes that do not contain PFAS.

Check for labels like "low VOC" and "PFAS-free," which indicate lesser environmental and health impacts.

Performance Fabrics

Though popular for their durability and ease of cleaning, many performance fabrics are treated with PFAS.

Look for natural fiber options or PFAS-free labels.

FAQs on PFAS in Interior Design

Q: Are all non-stick and stain-resistant products made with PFAS?
A: Not necessarily. While PFAS chemicals are commonly used for these properties, there are alternative materials that do not contain PFAS.

Q: How can I verify that a product is PFAS-free?
A: Check the product labels or specifications for mentions of PFAS-free. You can also contact the manufacturer directly for detailed information about the chemicals used.

Q: Can PFAS in furniture really affect my health?
A: Yes, according to studies by agencies such as the EPA, PFAS can accumulate in the body and pose several health risks, particularly with long-term exposure.

Q: What should I do with PFAS-containing items I currently own?
A: It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits. While replacing all items at once might be impractical, consider replacing items strategically, particularly those with worn surfaces or those that your family interacts with frequently.

Highlight of Companies Participating in PFAS-Free Programs
Several leading furniture and fabric companies are moving towards PFAS-free products.

For instance, companies like IKEA and Crate & Barrel have committed to phasing out PFAS from their products.

These industry changes reflect a growing prioritization of health and environmental sustainability in product formulations.


Understanding and minimizing exposure to PFAS chemicals is crucial in creating a healthier home environment.

By choosing appropriate materials and being aware of the substances in your interiors, you can significantly mitigate the risks associated with PFAS and contribute to a healthier living space.

Always stay informed about the products you bring into your home, and prioritize options that align with a healthier and sustainable interior design philosophy.

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Christi Farrell

Christi is a licensed architect and interior designer specializing in sustainability. She enjoys teaching design and bringing transparency to the impact that furniture has on our planet.

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