Colorado Group’s ‘Going Out of Fashion’ study finds some major apparel companies don’t plan to phase out toxic chemicals forever

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(CBS4) – Cancer-causing chemicals lurk in some of your favorite water- and stain-resistant clothes. A study released Wednesday shows that many popular clothing brands have no plans to phase them out.

Called Going Out of Fashion, the study looked at 30 major clothing brands and developed a scorecard based on the brand’s policies regarding the presence of chemicals known as PFAS – or perfluoroalkyl substances – in their products. . PFAS are commonly referred to as forever chemicals because they can build up in the environment and body over time and cause a host of health issues, including cancer and reproductive harm.

The study was conducted by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, the National Resource Defense Council and Fashion FWD.

(credit: CBS)

In the outdoor clothing category, the highest ranked company was Patagonia with a “B” rating. The North Face received a “D” and Columbia, REI and Merrell all received an “F”. CBS4 has contacted those companies for comment, but has yet to receive a response, with the exception of REI, which said in a written statement, “A durable water repellent (DWR) finish is sometimes necessary to achieve resistance. stain and/or water resistant and meet our customers’ durability and performance expectations. Whenever we use chemical processing in the creation of a product, our goal is to do so in a way that minimizes the impact on people and the planet. See REI’s full written statement at the bottom of the article.

“Unfortunately, most of these companies don’t have policies or commitments in place to truly phase out these PFAS chemicals forever,” said Danny Katz, executive director of CoPIRG. “They’re called forever chemicals because they’re designed to be virtually indestructible. So when they are in our clothes, it is possible that they detach themselves from our clothes and enter our waterways and our bodies, and because they are so indestructible, they accumulate in our bodies. . They will build up in our ecosystems over time, and this can cause us real harm, so it is important that we remove PFAS from all possible sources.

Katz said researchers found some companies also had misleading labels, claiming their products were free of one type of PFAS chemical, but not others. PFAS are a class of over 9,000 toxic chemicals.

“All of these chemicals are designed to act in very similar ways, so there’s no reason to think any one will be safer than the others,” Katz said.

It offers some advice to consumers.

“If you have clothes that say stain or water resistant, they may contain PFAS, if you have a label that says PFAS free, that means they’ve phased it out,” Katz said. “But if it doesn’t have that label, or (it has) a label with different letters on it, maybe without PFOS instead of PFAS, that doesn’t guarantee there aren’t other types of PFAS chemicals in this product.”

Katz said the study found some other apparel companies have been phasing out PFAS products, demonstrating that it’s possible to make quality apparel without health risks.

“It is important for the state to act. It’s important for companies to act,” Katz said. “It’s possible to produce these things without PFAS, and it’s not worth the risk of producing these things with PFAS.”

There is currently a bipartisan bill making its way through the legislature that seeks to ban the sale of products containing PFAS in Colorado.

REI has released the following full written statement on this matter:

“At REI, we strive to sell high quality, durable gear while minimizing impacts on the environment and people. A Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish is sometimes required to achieve stain and/or water resistance. water and meet our customers’ expectations of sustainability and performance.Whenever we use a chemical treatment in the creation of a product, our goal is to do so in a way that minimizes the impact on people and planet.

DWR finishes typically use PFAS-based chemistry. As part of REI’s Product Impact Standards, we have established initial expectations for the use of certain types of PFAS in key product categories including apparel, footwear, backpacks, bags sleeping places and tents. We have also established that ski waxes and equipment and apparel treatments are the first categories where PFAS chemistry will be completely removed. We will continue to raise our expectations where we can.

Additionally, to protect consumer health and safety, REI has a rigorous chemical management program for the products we sell under the REI Co-op brand. This involves chemical testing of the materials that go into the products we sell for compliance with REI’s Restricted Substances List (RSL). We also partner with bluesign® to use certified materials in an effort to prevent chemicals of concern from entering our products at every stage of the manufacturing process.

Finally, several brands have started in recent years to offer PFAS-free waterproof clothing. For example, The North Face recently started selling products that use its FUTURELIGHT waterproof membrane, which is PFAS-free. REI currently offers a collection of these products, which you can find on REI.com here. Together with our partners and the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), we will continue to work together to determine how we can apply these products only when necessary, as well as to determine when better options are available.

If you would like to learn more about REI’s product sustainability efforts, including those related to chemical stewardship, please visit our stewardship site here. ”

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