PFAS: Think Twice Before Buying New Gear

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    David Gardner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Words like “breathable” and “water-resistant” make clothing very attractive to consumers, but far too often it’s toxic PFAS chemicals, the ones that build up in the environment and in our bodies, that make this happen. Despite their threat to people and our planet, PFAS continue to be used by brands that many of us may have in our closets right now. Here’s what you need to know about PFAS in the apparel industry.

    PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a family of as many as 12,000 dangerous synthetic chemicals that pollute the drinking water of approximately 200 million Americans, accumulate in wildlife, and have been found in places as remote as Mount Everest and the Arctic.

    Just as they’re used in the food industry to make food packaging grease-proof, PFAS are also used by the fashion industry to make clothing products waterproof, stain-resistant and breathable. When a company uses PFAS in its products, the company perpetuates PFAS pollution as the product goes through its lifecycle — and exposure to PFAS can result in serious health threats like cancer and suppressed immune function.

    U.S. PIRG Education Fund and its partners at other consumer and public health organizations released a report to highlight the apparel companies with the best and worst PFAS policies based on their timelines for PFAS phaseout, the range of products covered by their PFAS policy, and public availability of company PFAS commitments as well as their PFAS labeling and testing protocols. Here’s what the report found:

    • Levi Strauss & Co. followed by Victoria’s Secret and Deckers Brands lead the way with strong PFAS elimination policies.
    • The majority of apparel companies (18 out of 30) received a grade of D or lower. These included Walmart, Wolverine (the parent of Hush Puppies, Keds, Merrell, Stride Rite and other brands), Macy’s and Skechers.
    • The outdoor apparel industry lags behind customer values in PFAS policy. For instance, REI, VF Corp. (parent of The North Face, Timberland, Jansport and others) and L.L. Bean received grades of D or F for their PFAS policies, or lack thereof.
    • Many companies use outdated, inaccurate, or misleading definitions of PFAS in their commitments and communications regarding the chemicals.

    To ensure consumers’ protection, our federal and state governments need to ban all PFAS in consumer apparel and require labeling of products that contain PFAS until all uses are phased out.

    As a major user of PFAS, the apparel industry can play a key role in turning off the tap of PFAS pollution. We all need to do our part. Please don’t buy any products containing PFAS, and complain to the companies whose product information does not make clear whether they contain PFAS.



    Locale: Cascadia

    Hasn’t there been a switch to chemicals that have a very short half life once they become de-bonded from the fabric?

    BPL Member


    does “C0 DWR” mean  PFAS free?

    I assume I’m being marginal contaminated each time I wear a DWR garment.

    There was another recent study linking PFAs to fatty liver tissue as well. Nasty stuff. Too bad it will persist for ages. The north Minneapolis suburbs water is terribly contaminated with PFOA/PFOS from the 3m scotchguard plant. Stain resistant fabrics often employ these as well.

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