10 Things You Should Know About PFAS in Clothing

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PFAS personal injury from clothes

Your favorite matching athleisure set and that adorable raincoat hanging in your closet are hiding a dark secret – they could be exposing you to toxic chemicals called PFAS.

1.  What Are PFAS?

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are harmful chemicals. Since the 1940s, consumer products manufacturers have used PFAS to produce scores of everyday items, including:

  • Carpet
  • Clothing
  • Firefighting foam (aqueous film forming foam)
  • Food packaging and takeout containers
  • Nonstick cookware

 2. Why Are They Called “Forever Chemicals?”

Some people call PFAS “forever chemicals” because they:

  • Do not break down
  • Persist in the environment
  • Accumulate in our bodies over time

Now consider these toxins exist in our clothes—including children’s garments. For their sake and yours, you should equip yourself with the facts.

3. How Are PFAS Used in Clothing?

Manufacturers use PFAS in clothing, shoes, and accessories because the chemicals are water and stain resistant. This makes them popular in items like:

That’s right—school uniforms!

4. Why Are PFAS Popular in Workout Wear?

Active wear is one of the fashion industry’s most common PFAS culprits. Manufacturers often treat these types of garments with a type of PFAS called side-chain fluorinated polymers. This treatment achieves “sweat wicking” or cooling properties, which are useful in:

  • Sports bras
  • Workout leggings
  • Yoga pants
  • Athletic tops

5.  How Can You Identify and Avoid PFAS in Clothing?

Identifying PFAS in clothing can be tricky. Manufacturers are not always transparent about their use of these chemicals. These tips will help you identify and avoid PFAS in clothing:

  • Read Labels Carefully: Look for terms like “water-resistant,” “stain-repellent,” and “wrinkle-free,” which often indicate PFAS treatment.
  • Research Brands: Although many brands still use PFAS, some brands have committed to eliminating PFAS from their products. Check clothing makers’ websites or reviews to see if they have committed to safer alternatives.
  • Opt for Natural Fibers: Fabrics such as organic cotton, wool, and silk are less likely to have PFAS treatment than synthetic materials like nylon or spandex.

6. Which Clothing Brands Have PFAS?

A consumer study by Mamavation tested 32 clothing brands for PFAS contaminants. Some of the brands that tested positive for PFAS include:

  • Athleta
  • Lululemon
  • LuLaRoe
  • Old Navy
  • Yogalicious

7. Who’s Doing Something About PFAS in Clothing?

Soon, clothing companies will either make PFAS-free clothes or forfeit substantial sales. According to Safer States, 39 states have adopted PFAS policies. For example:

  • California: Starting in 2025, California will ban PFAS from all textiles.
  • New York: New York has already fully banned the sale of garments that contain PFAS as of 2023.
  • Colorado: By 2028, Colorado will ban the sale of all PFAS-treated clothing, backpacks, and waterproof outdoor gear. Starting in 2025, companies will be required to include disclosure labels on any PFAS-treated clothing they sell.

8. What Are Common PFAS Injuries?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, exposure to PFAS can lead to health effects such as:

  • Certain types of cancer
  • Hormone disruption
  • Weakened immune system
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Heightened cholesterol levels
  • Decreases in infant birth weights
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

These health issues underscore the importance of understanding and mitigating PFAS exposure.

9. What’s the Future for PFAS-Made Clothes?

Thankfully, the world is slowly taking steps to limit PFAS exposure going forward.

In April 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared PFOA and PFOS chemicals as hazardous substances under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund.”

Companies must now report any significant release of PFAS contaminants into soil or water. The change represents a step in the right direction, as it holds the industries that cause PFAS contamination responsible for their cleanup.

10. Who Should Pay for This “Fashion Don’t?”

Companies like DuPont and Chemours have produced and profited from PFAS for decades, leading to global contamination. PFAS even exists in drinking water, perhaps the greatest potential for exposure.

PFAS lawsuits claim that manufacturers have released these toxic forever chemicals into water supplies, exposing individuals to unsafe levels of these toxins and causing serious injuries and illnesses.