Trying to avoid “forever chemicals”? Then you may have to change where you buy clothes.
Some of the nation’s biggest clothing companies have done a poor job of committing to ban PFAS chemicals — so-called forever chemicals — from the clothing they sell, according to a new scorecard from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and Fashion FWD.
The clothing companies also were criticized for failing to provide “up-to-date, publicly available information on any ongoing efforts to phase out these toxic chemicals.”
“PFAS” refers to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of more than 9,000 toxic chemicals used to provide water- and grease-resistant properties to consumer products, including clothing, according to the three organizations that released the scorecard.
The groups say the chemicals do not break down naturally, which is how they contribute to contamination. What’s more, in the press release, they say:
“Exposure to these chemicals, even in small amounts over time, has been linked to serious health effects including kidney and liver disease, developmental issues and cancer.”
The worst PFAS offenders among apparel companies included in the scorecard — all of which earned “F” grades — are:
- Academy Sports and Outdoors (parent company of the brands Academy Sports and Outdoors and Magellan Outdoors)
- Capri Holdings (Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo)
- Columbia Sportswear (Columbia, Prana)
- G-III Apparel Group Ltd. (DKNY, Andrew Marc)
- Tapestry Inc. (Coach, Kate Spade)
- Under Armour
- Wolverine Worldwide (Wolverine, Merrell)
Several clothing retailers included in the scorecard also earned “F” grades:
- J.C. Penney
Other big names — including Target, Costco, Nike, L.L. Bean and VF Corp. (parent company of North Face and Timberland) — didn’t fare much better, all earning grades in the “D” range.
In a press release, Emily Rogers of the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, recounts the ills of PFAS chemicals resulting from their use in clothing:
“PFAS contamination can occur throughout the entire lifecycle of clothing manufacturing. It pollutes our waters, can be absorbed through our skin when we wear PFAS treated apparel, winds up in landfills, or incinerated and passed into the air. To effectively address PFAS contamination, clothing brands must stop using dangerous forever chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives.”