Sydney Murphy Health Day Reporter
health day reporter
Wed, Sept. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Your child’s school uniform may look neat, but is it safe to wear?
Researchers find high levels of dangerous chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) school uniforms sold throughout North America. These chemicals — which build up in people and the environment over time — can be harmful to health. They are widely used in consumer and industrial products as well as textiles.
The researchers examined a variety of children’s textiles and found fluorine in 65 percent of the samples tested. The highest concentrations are found in school uniforms, especially those marked 100% cotton.
“What is surprising about this sample is the high rate of detection of PFAS in clothing worn by children,” said study co-author Graham Peaslee, a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. Children are a vulnerable group when people are concerned about chemicals, and no one knows that these textiles are being treated with PFAS and other toxic chemicals.
Textile manufacturers use PFAS to make fabrics more soil-resistant and durable.
Known as “forever chemicals,” they have been linked to an increased risk of health problems, including weakening immune system, asthma, obesity As well as problems with brain development and behavior. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely tests for PFAS in blood samples from children ages 3 to 11.
Researchers estimate that 20 percent of U.S. public schools require students to wear uniforms, 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.
The study looked at a sample of 72 products purchased online in North America in 2020 and 2021. The researchers looked at products with labels that said water, stain, wind or wrinkle resistance.
In addition to uniforms, the products tested included outerwear such as raincoats, snowsuits and mittens; accessories such as bibs, hats and baby shoes; and sweatshirts, swimwear and stroller covers.
The study authors added that more research is needed to understand how chemical concentrations change throughout use and washing.
“Consumers are not choosing to buy clothes that are washable rather than buying clothes that are coated with chemicals to reduce stains,” Peaslee said. “We hope that one of the outcomes of this work is to increase the labelling of textiles to be fully informed before sale. The chemicals buyers use to treat fabrics so that consumers can choose chemical-free clothing for their children.”
The items were screened for fluorine using particle-induced gamma emission (PIGE) spectroscopy, according to a university press release. Peaslee’s lab has previously used the method to detect PFAS in cosmetics, fast food packaging, face masks and firefighting gear.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to officially declare permanent chemicals hazardous, they are nearly impossible to avoid. The study is a reminder that PFAS are still used in consumer and industrial products, and they remain in the environment.
Scientists from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, the University of Toronto and the Green Science Policy Institute collaborated on the research.on September 21st Environmental Technology Express.
IPEN provides more information on hazardous chemicals such as PFAS.
Source: University of Notre Dame, press release, September 21, 2022