How to prevent ‘eternal chemicals’ from hiding in your child’s school uniform and everyday clothes
If your child is wearing a school uniform, they could be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals before they even walk through the front door.
Consumer Reports found that the fabric of some school uniforms could be laden with “forever chemicals.”
According to a recent study published in the Journal Environmental Science and Technology, school uniforms had higher levels of potentially harmful PFAS chemicals than other types of children’s clothing tested, such as bibs, hats and swimsuits.
“PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they almost never break down naturally. And they’re often added to products to make them waterproof, stain-resistant, or non-stick,” said Kevin Loria of Consumer Reports.
In recent years, PFAS have been linked to a growing list of health problems, including an increased risk of certain cancers, liver damage, and neurodevelopmental problems. And the exposure of children is of particular concern.
In this study, 30 stain-resistant school uniforms were tested. Chemicals were found in all of them.
“Children wear these clothes against their skin for hours every day – and these chemicals can stay in the body for months or even years,” Loria said. “So it is very important to limit exposure as much as possible.”
Now some states are stepping up their efforts. New York and California have passed bills that will phase out PFAS from textiles by 2024 and 2025.
This doesn’t do much to help anxious parents right now, but there are ways to limit your child’s exposure to PFAS.
“If you have the option — say your school requires a blue polo shirt but not from a specific store — buy one that isn’t labeled stain-resistant, because stain-resistant coatings often contain PFAS,” he said. Loria.
And parents can also limit exposure from other sources, like testing their drinking water and using a water filter certified to remove PFAS, and avoiding stain-resistant carpets and household products.
When it comes to ordering takeout, it’s a good idea to choose places that have phased out PFAS from their packaging.
Other chemical problems
There are also chemicals in your everyday clothes.
Experts say one of the most common reactions to these chemicals is a rash that appears a few days after exposure and can last for several weeks.
“Scattered dyes” are the most common culprits, and they’re at their highest in new, unwashed clothes.
They are typically used in synthetic clothing materials like polyester and nylon, which are commonly used in workout clothes.
Sweating and friction can also cause this dye to leach onto your skin.
A more dangerous chemical compound was found in 29 of 31 clothing samples in a 2014 study.
“Quinoline” is also used in dyes and was especially high in polyester items. The EPA classifies it as a “possible human carcinogen”, which means it could cause cancer.
But the agency relied on studies involving mice and did not study it in humans.
There are several other types of stain repellents, dyes, and anti-wrinkle chemicals used to treat clothing that are still under investigation.
Overall, the researchers say natural fibers like cotton are generally treated with fewer chemicals.
But the reality is that apparel manufacturers don’t have to disclose chemicals or additives to customers.
The best way to protect yourself is to wash each item before wearing it.
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