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A study published in Environmental Science and Technology found that 72% of children’s textile products marketed as stain-resistant–including school uniforms–contained PFAS chemicals.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are a class of over 9,000 industrial compounds that are added to everyday products to repel stains, water or oil. They might be in your favorite rain jacket, the nonstick pan you flip pancakes in or your waterproof mascara. Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” they do not break down in the environment.
These chemicals have been associated with myriad health harms, including cancer, obesity, developmental delays and reduced vaccine response in children. They’ve also recently been linked to more severe COVID-19 outcomes.
PFAS-treated goods such as clothing may be an important source of direct human exposure, especially for children, as well as a source of PFAS to the environment. Children’s exposure to PFAS is of particular concern. Due to their lower body weight and sensitive developmental period, children’s exposure may result in a greater body burden and higher health risks compared to adults. (4,10) Prenatal and/or postnatal exposure to several well-studied PFAS, especially perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), was associated with overweight and obesity, neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems, dyslipidemia, immunity including vaccine response and asthma, renal function, and age at menarche in children. (10,46−50)