Apparel from Gap and Old Navy has been flagged in a toxic-chemical investigation.
According to a new study, even "eco-friendly" children's clothing is not safe from per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, or PFAS.
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The study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, discovered that many kid-friendly goods, even those with green certifications, included "forever chemicals" that were not specified on their labels. Children's slacks from The Children's Place and Columbia Sportswear were among them, as were baby jeggings from Gap, toddler polos from Lands' End, and girls' blouses from Old Navy.
Scientists from the Silent Spring Institute, Alpha Analytical Laboratories, and Galbraith Laboratories chose 93 stain- and water-resistant, "green" or "non-toxic" textile goods for testing, including garments, bedding, and furnishings. The majority of them were from large US shops.
PFAS impart stain and water resistance to many items, however they are recognized to represent a long-term concern since they do not degrade in the environment. They have been related to hormonal and immune-system disturbance, liver and kidney damage, developmental and reproductive problems, and some malignancies in humans.
The goods were initially tested for fluorine, a PFAS marker, using a fast screening procedure. They discovered that products marketed as water- or stain-resistant, as well as those branded "green" or "non-toxic," were more likely to have measurable amounts of fluorine that were greater than others. They then evaluated 46 distinct PFAS compounds on a subset of those goods. Only water- or stain-resistant goods, whether promoted as "green" or "non-toxic," included PFAS.
Even PFOA, a legacy PFAS that has been phased out in the US, has been found in a variety of items, even some branded as "green." According to the experts, the majority of them originated in China.
According to the study, the data show the prevalence of PFAS in daily items, as well as the difficulties consumers may encounter in avoiding them. Children are particularly sensitive to exposure.
"Children's bodies are still growing and are more susceptible to chemical exposures," said Laurel Schaider, senior scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and research co-author. "It stands to reason that parents would wish to avoid items that include substances that may have an influence on their children's health now and in the future."
According to the researchers, the study highlights the necessity for third-party green certifiers to include PFAS in their criteria as well as perform a more complete evaluation of what they're certifying.
In a statement, Mike Schade, director of Poisonous-Free Future's Mind the Store initiative, stated, "Retailers must also play a part in stopping this toxic trail of pollution." "Trust is the foundation of market power." Customers should be able to trust that the stores where they purchase provide items that are free of PFAS lifetime chemicals, particularly those promoted to children."
Gap Inc., the parent company of Gap and Old Navy, stated that it is "dedicated and on schedule" to eradicate PFASs from its supply chain by 2023. The Children's Place, Columbia Sportswear, and Lands' End did not reply to demands for comment right away.
Sujatha Bergen, director of health campaigns at the National Resource Defense Council, which recently produced a PFAS "report card" in collaboration with Fashion FWD and the US PIRG Education Fund, said she wasn't shocked by the findings.
"PFAS are commonly utilized throughout the textile sector, despite the fact that they are not required," she told Sourcing Journal. "To protect public safety, all textile and garment firms should immediately create a commitment to phase these chemicals out of their supply chains."
Gap Inc. scored a B from Bergen and company for its efforts to eliminate PFAS from its supply chain, whereas Columbia received an F. (The Children's Place and Lands' End did not receive a rating.)
"Columbia Sportswear and the textile sector should announce a public schedule to phase out these chemicals immediately," she added. "They have no place in children's clothing or, for that matter, any material."
Several states have filed or enacted laws to prohibit the use of PFAS in goods. California has banned the use of PFAS in several newborn and children's goods and is considering legislation to ban PFAS in textiles, while Washington state has approved legislation to phase out PFAS in items ranging from clothes to cosmetics by 2025.
Beginning in 2030, a new legislation in Maine will prohibit the sale of items containing purposefully added PFAS, unless their use is unavoidable.
Massachusetts has also submitted legislation to ban the use of PFAS in popular home items including carpets and kitchenware.
Meanwhile, the NRDC recommends a reasonable rule of thumb for consumers: if a garment is branded "waterproof," "breathable," "stain resistant," or "dirt repellent," it almost certainly has a PFAS coating or membrane.
"These are items that children come into intimate contact with every day and over a long period of time," said Kathryn Rodgers, a PhD student at Boston University School of Public Health and research co-author. "Because of the toxicity of PFAS and the fact that the compounds serve no important role, they should not be allowed in goods."