High levels of PFAS “Forever” chemicals in children’s school uniforms

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By Sydney Murphy HealthDay Reporter


Health Day Reporter

WEDNESDAY, September 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Your kids’ school clothes may look neat, but are they safe to wear?

Maybe not.

Researchers found high levels of dangerous chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in school uniforms sold across North America. These chemicals, which can accumulate in people and the environment over time, can be harmful to health. They are commonly used in consumer and industrial products, as well as in textiles.

Examining a variety of children’s textiles, the researchers found fluorine in 65% of the samples tested. Concentrations were highest in school uniforms, particularly those labeled 100% cotton.

“What was surprising about this group of samples was the high level of detection of PFAS in clothing that children are required to wear,” said study co-author Graham Peaslee, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. “Children are a vulnerable demographic when it comes to chemicals of concern and no one knows that these textiles are being treated with PFAS and other toxic chemicals.

Textile manufacturers use PFAS to make fabrics more stain-resistant and durable.

Known as “Forever Chemicals,” they have been linked to an increased risk of health problems, including a weakened immune system, asthma, obesity, and problems with brain development and behavior. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely detects PFAS in blood samples from children between the ages of 3 and 11.

The researchers estimated that 20% of public schools in the United States require students to wear uniforms, putting millions of children at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. You can be exposed through skin contact with PFAS-treated clothing, inhalation, or ingestion.

This study examined 72 samples of products purchased online in North America in 2020 and 2021. Investigators looked at products with labels claiming they were water, stain, wind, or wrinkle resistant.

In addition to uniforms, the products tested included outerwear such as rain suits, snow suits and mittens; accessories such as bibs, hats and baby shoes; as well as sweatshirts, swimwear and stroller covers.

The study authors added that more studies are needed to understand how chemical concentrations change over time and washing.


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“There’s no way for consumers to buy clothes that can be washed instead of clothing that’s coated with chemicals to reduce stains,” Peaslee said. “We hope that one of the outcomes of this work will be increased labeling of textiles to fully inform the purchaser of the chemicals used to treat the fabric prior to sale, giving consumers the opportunity to purchase garments that have not been treated with chemicals were chosen for their children. ”

According to a university press release, the items were analyzed for fluorine using particle-induced gamma-ray emission spectroscopy (PIGE). Peaslee’s lab has previously used the method to detect PFAS in cosmetics, fast-food packaging, face masks and firefighting gear.

While the US Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to officially declare chemicals permanently hazardous, they are almost impossible to avoid. The study reminds that PFAS are still used in consumer and industrial products and persist in the environment.

Researchers from Notre Dame, Indiana University, the University of Toronto and the Green Science Policy Institute collaborated on the study. They published their findings on September 21 in Environmental Science and Technology Letters.


More information

IPEN provides more information on harmful chemicals such as PFAS.

SOURCE: University of Notre Dame, press release, September 21, 2022




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