Written by Sidney Murphy, HealthDay Reporter
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Your kids’ school clothes may look stylish, but are they safe to wear?
Researchers found high levels of dangerous chemicals called per- and Polyfluoroalkyl materials (PFAS) in school uniforms sold throughout North America. These chemicals – which can build up in humans and the environment over time – can be harmful to health. They are widely used in consumer, industrial and textile products.
When examining a variety of children’s textiles, the researchers found fluorine in 65% of the samples tested. Concentrations were higher in school uniforms, especially those numbered in 100% cotton.
“What was surprising in this set of samples was the high frequency of detection of PFAS in the clothes that children are required to wear,” said study co-author Graham Beasley, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. “Children are a vulnerable population when it comes to chemicals of concern, and no one knows that these textiles are treated with PFAS and other toxic chemicals.
Textile manufacturers use PFAS to make fabrics more stain-resistant and durable.
Known as “forever chemicals,” they have been linked to an increased risk of health problems, including weakness immune systemAnd the asthmaAnd the obesity and problems in brain development and behavior. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely detects PFAS in blood samples taken from children ages 3 to 11.
Researchers have estimated that 20% of US public schools require students to wear a uniform, putting millions of children at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. They can be exposed through skin contact with PFAS-treated clothing, inhalation, or ingestion.
This study looked at 72 samples of products purchased online in North America in 2020 and 2021. The investigators examined products whose labels said they were resistant to water, stains, wind, or wrinkles.
Besides uniforms, products tested included outerwear such as rainwear, snow suits, and gloves; accessories such as bibs, hats and children’s shoes; As well as T-shirts, swimwear and stroller covers.
The study authors added that more study is needed to find out how chemical concentrations change over the lifespan of use and washing.
“There is no option for the consumer to buy clothes that can be washed in place of clothes that are covered in chemicals to reduce stains,” Beasley said. “We hope that one outcome of this work will be to increase textile labeling to fully inform the buyer of the chemicals used to process the fabric prior to sale so that consumers can pick out garments that have not been treated with chemicals for their children.”
The elements were checked for fluorine using gamma-ray emission spectroscopy (PIGE), according to a university press release. Peaslee’s lab previously used a method to detect PFAS in cosmetics, fast food packaging, face masks, and firefighting equipment.
While the US Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to officially declare dangerous chemicals in perpetuity, it is almost impossible to avoid them. This study is a reminder that PFAS is still used in consumer and industrial products and that it remains in the environment.
Scientists from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, University of Toronto and the Green Science Policy Institute collaborated on the study. They published their findings on September 21 in Environmental science and technology messages.
IPEN provides more information about harmful chemicals such as PFAS.
Source: University of Notre Dame, press release, September 21, 2022