Make It Toxic-Free

New study finds high levels of PFAS in children’s stain resistant school uniforms

PFAS used in children's school uniforms to make the clothes stain-resistant also pose a toxic threat to kids' health.

Outside of a school building
Madalyn Eudy from Pixabay" target="_blank">Image by Madalyn Eudy from Pixabay |

A new study published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology found high levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in children’s school uniforms marketed as stain-resistant.

PFAS are a class of more than 12,000 chemicals that are used in a variety of consumer products from food packaging to apparel to make these products resistant to stains and water. Unfortunately, PFAS have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer, immune suppression, liver damage, increased cholesterol, complications with fertility, pregnancy and birth defects.

school kids getting on bus

Photo by EB Pilgrim from Pixabay” target=”_blank”>Image by EB Pilgrim from Pixabay |

Finding these “forever chemicals” in school uniforms is especially concerning as children who are required to wear this clothing do so for eight or more hours a day, increasing the time their skin is in direct contact with treated fabrics. Other than exposure through skin absorption, kids may also be exposed to the PFAS in their school uniforms by eating with unwashed hands or through hand-to-mouth behavioral tendencies, inhalation of PFAS particles from their clothing, and the tendency of young children to mouth clothing. Additionally, the manufacture, laundering and disposal of PFAS-treated clothing is a source of PFAS contamination in the environment.

PIRG has been working to get clothing and gear companies like Columbia Sportswear to publicly commit to phase out the use of PFAS in its products by 2024. Add your voice here.

Emily Rogers

Former Zero Out Toxics, Advocate, PIRG

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