REI commits to eliminating PFAS from its products

The major outdoor retailer will phase out the use of "forever chemicals" in all cookware and textiles by 2024, and all remaining products by 2026.

Toxic threats

Staff | TPIN

Making it a leader in the outdoor retail industry, REI has released new product standards will require its suppliers to eliminate all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, from the pots, pans, shoes, bags, packs, and similar gear sold by the retail chain. Suppliers of heavy-duty apparel like professional-grade raincoats will have until 2026 to make those products PFAS-free.

PFAS (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have earned the nickname “forever chemicals” because they stick around, quite literally, forever. They’re man-made and made to last — meaning that when they inevitably seep out into the environment, they stay there, accumulating both in volume and in the level of danger they pose to our health. Scientists estimate that 98% of Americans have PFAS in their blood. PFAS exposure has been linked to serious health effects including liver damage, developmental issues, immune suppression and cancer.

Given how long they last and what we know about their harmful effects, we should stop using PFAS. It’s not worth risking exposure to these chemicals in products or the environment.

Outdoor clothing and gear brands are associated with active outdoor living and some have branded themselves as eco-conscious, yet many have taken little or no action on getting PFAS out of their products. REI’s new commitment places it among the industry leaders, and those companies that have not yet acted should follow suit.

 

Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

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