High Levels of PFAS “Forever” Chemicals in Children’s School Uniforms

Although the clothes your kids wear to school might appear nice, are they safe to wear?

Possibly not.

High concentrations of harmful chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were discovered by researchers in school uniforms distributed across North America. These compounds have the potential to be unhealthy because they can accumulate over time in both individuals and the environment. They are widely utilised in textiles, industrial, and consumer goods.

The researchers tested a variety of children’s clothing and discovered fluorine in 65% of the samples. Highest concentrations were found in school uniforms, particularly those that said they were 100% cotton.

According to study co-author Graham Peaslee, a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, “what was striking about this group of samples was the high detection frequency of PFAS in the clothing required for children to wear.” “Children are a susceptible group when it comes to potentially harmful chemicals, and no one is aware that these textiles have been treated with PFAS and other hazardous substances.

The usage of PFAS by textile producers increases the stain- and wear-resistance of materials.

They are referred to as “forever chemicals” and have been connected to a higher risk of a number of illnesses, such as asthma, obesity, a weakened immune system, and issues with brain development and behaviour. Blood samples from kids between the ages of 3 and 11 are frequently tested by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the presence of PFAS.

According to the researchers, 20% of public schools in the US compel pupils to wear uniforms, which increases the risk of harmful chemical exposure for millions of kids. Through skin contact with garments treated with PFAS, inhalation, or ingestion, they may be exposed.

In order to conduct this study, 72 samples of goods purchased online in North America in 2020 and 2021 were used. The investigators examined goods whose labels said they were water-, stain-, wind-, or wrinkle-resistant.

In addition to uniforms, the products put to the test included sweatshirts, swimsuits, pram covers, and outerwear such as rainsuits, snowsuits, and mittens.

The authors of the study concluded that additional research is required to understand how chemical concentrations alter over the course of repeated washing and use.

The option for consumers to buy washable clothing instead of apparel treated with chemicals to prevent stains does not exist, according to Peaslee. “We expect that one of the results of this work will be improved labelling of textiles to fully tell the buyer of the chemicals used to treat the fabric prior to sale so consumers have the choice to choose clothing that has not been treated with chemicals for their children,” says the researcher.

According to a university press release, the items were examined for fluorine using particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy. The technique has previously been used by Peaslee’s lab to find PFAS in face masks, fast food packaging, cosmetics, and firefighting equipment.

Chemicals are almost impossible to avoid, despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to have them formally classified as harmful. The study serves as a warning that PFAS are still present in the environment and are used in both industrial and consumer items.

The study was a joint effort of researchers from Notre Dame, Indiana University, the University of Toronto, and the Green Science Policy Institute. On September 21, they released their research in Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

Information about

IPEN provides more details on dangerous substances like PFAS.

SOURCE: News release from the University of Notre Dame, September 21, 2022

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