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Toxics in Our Clothing
For this study, jackets and other clothing sold as water- or stain-resistant were purchased from 13 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Most of the jackets tested were marketed for children. Countries included were Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, Serbia, Montenegro, Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the U.S.
Read the press release here.
- As there are thousands of PFAS that can be used in products, two kinds of tests were performed. Samples were tested for 58 specific PFAS and for extractable organic fluorine (EOF), a measurement that correlates with the use of any PFAS.
- We tested 72 samples: 56 jackets and 16 other clothing samples. Testing showed that 47 of 72 samples (65.3%) contained PFAS or had EOF levels indicating the presence of PFAS. Out of the 56 jackets, 35 (62.5%) contained PFAS or had EOF levels indicating the presence of PFAS.
- 16 jacket samples had PFAS at levels above proposed EU limits; 13 jackets contained at least one PFAS above the limit; and another 3 jackets had levels above limits for the category of PFAS known as PFCAs.
- PFOA, a PFAS chemical that is known to be highly toxic and has been banned globally, was the most common PFAS in the products, found in 17 outdoor jackets. Another PFAS chemical, PFDA, was found in 17 samples. PFDA is restricted under EU rules and has been recommended for a global ban.
- 16 items of clothing were tested, including aprons, T-shirts, swimsuits, a raincoat, a hijab, and trousers. Testing showed that 11 of the 16 samples (68.8%) contained PFAS or had EOF levels indicating the presence of PFAS. Two swimsuits from India had levels above proposed EU safety limits.
- Of the 15 PFAS identified in the analyzed clothing, 6:2 FTOH was measured in the highest concentrations. The presence of FTOHs indicates that polymeric PFAS, i.e. side chain fluorotelomer-based polymers, were used in the products. Side-chain fluorinated polymers used in textiles degrade into other PFAS, including PFOA and other PFAS that are under current legislative scrutiny.
- Very few jackets and other textiles are recycled, meaning PFAS-treated clothing are likely to be landfilled or incinerated, releasing the chemicals into the environment where they will persist.
- Safer alternatives to PFAS exist and are used by responsible companies. In our study,we found 21 water- or stain-proof jackets without PFAS, including jackets made by North Face and Black Diamond, two companies that have committed to being PFAS-free. Several other outdoor clothing companies and retailers have also made this commitment, demonstrating that clothing can be made without PFAS.
- Some PFAS are regulated globally, regionally, or nationally. Three PFAS have been found to be among the most highly toxic chemicals known and are banned globally. But comprehensive regulations to protect the environment and human health from all PFAS are lacking.
This study demonstrates that the current process of regulating thousands of PFAS one-by-one or in small groups is not sufficient to control these harmful substances. Only a universal, class-based approach -including polymeric PFAS- resulting in a global ban of PFAS as a group can stop environmental releases of and human exposure to PFAS.
Download the study below.