From raincoats to towels, the toxic ‘eternal chemicals’ found in everyday products

Despite the existence of safer alternatives, toxic “eternal chemicals” linked to a wide range of health problems are found in most products labeled stain or water resistant, rain jackets and pants. from hiking to mattress toppers, duvets, towels and tablecloths.

“We need urgent action at the state and federal levels to solve the PFAS crisis, including quickly stopping its use in the products we wear and use in our homes.”

It depends Toxic conveniencea new study published Wednesday by Toxic-Free Future, which analyzed 60 commonly used articles to highlight the “hidden costs of chemicals forever in stain and water-resistant products” in three categories: clothing d exterior, bedding and table linen.

The Seattle-based nonprofit research and advocacy organization found that 72 percent of 47 stain- or water-resistant products it tested contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are a class of synthetic compounds known as “eternal chemicals” because they don’t break down, polluting people’s bodies and the planet for years. Scientists have linked long-term exposure to PFAS – identified at dangerous levels in the drinking water of more than 200 million Americans and detected in 97% of blood samples and 100% of milk samples breast cancer – to many adverse health effects, including cancer, reproductive harm, immune system damage, and other serious problems.

In particular, the 13 products tested by Toxic-Free Future which were not marketed as stain or water resistant have been shown to be PFAS-free.

“Our tests reveal continued and unnecessary use of the toxic chemicals known as PFAS in outerwear and home furnishings like bedding and tablecloths,” said study author Erika Schreder and scientific director of Toxic-Free Future, in a press release.

“When companies use PFAS to make stain- or water-resistant products,” Schreder said, “they’re using chemicals that contaminate homes, drinking water, and breast milk with highly persistent chemicals. which can cause cancer and damage the immune system.

More than a quarter of products studied that were marketed as stain and/or water resistant appeared to be PFAS-free, demonstrating that alternative compounds are available and prompting calls for rapid regulatory action to improve product safety. workplace and consumers.

“Some companies use PFAS-free alternatives, but until regulations ban PFAS in products, these dangerous chemicals will continue to be used in our raincoats and bedding,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic. -Free Future. “We need urgent action at the state and federal levels to solve the PFAS crisis, including quickly stopping its use in the products we wear and use in our homes.”

Manufacturers used a combination of PFAS, including compounds currently banned in other countries, the analysis found. While newer PFASs were present, the researchers also found that nearly three-quarters of products contaminated with forever chemicals tested positive for older PFASs, already banned in the European Union and phased out by major US manufacturers.

“It’s time to end this terrible injustice, hold manufacturers accountable, and urgently establish national and international bans on the entire class of PFAS,” said Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics and Co-Chair of International Pollutants Elimination. Network (IPEN). “The PFAS contamination of the Arctic poses a particular threat to the health of indigenous peoples who depend on traditional foods that are essential for their physical, spiritual and cultural sustenance.”

Products analyzed by Toxic-Free Future were purchased from 10 major retailers: Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Macy’s, REI, Target, TJX and Walmart. According to the group, which conducted tests for total fluorine and PFAS at independent scientific laboratories, forever chemicals were found in at least one item sold by each company.

“Rain jackets shouldn’t cause cancer, but for some of us it just might,” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear. “These companies sold a convenience product to consumers without fully disclosing the toxic trade-off.”

“In my area of ​​North Carolina, our drinking water has been severely contaminated by the manufacture of PFAS chemicals,” Donovan added. “No one’s drinking water should be contaminated for a rain jacket.”

The analysis comes amid a national campaign lobbying REI and other retailers to ban PFAS in outerwear and other textiles.

Since November 2021, more than 60,000 REI customers have signed petitions and sent emails urging REI’s CEO and Board of Directors to take action against PFAS. Last month, a coalition of more than 100 local, state and national organizations sent out a letter imploring REI — which is also facing a labor campaign in Manhattan — to catalyze industry-wide change away from all the class of PFAS.

“Retailers, like REI, can stop contributing to this trail of toxic pollution by ensuring the products they sell are PFAS-free,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store program director at Toxic-Free Future. . “As a company committed to sustainability and one of the largest outdoor retailers in the United States, REI has a responsibility to steer the outdoor industry away from these toxic chemicals.”

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