Harmful amount of PFAs found in school uniforms, says research

The conclusions from the peer-reviewed study were published in Environmental Science & Technology

ANIUpdated: Sunday, September 25, 2022, 07:09 PM IST
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Based on a recent study, students in the US and Canada often come into contact with potentially hazardous levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl(PFAS) substances through their uniforms. The researchers looked examined nine popular kinds of "stain-resistant" school uniforms, and they all contained PFAS. The majority of the products had concentrations similar to those found in outdoor clothing.

The conclusions from the peer-reviewed study were published in Environmental Science & Technology.

"PFAS don't belong in any clothing, but their use in school uniforms is particularly concerning," said Marta Venier, senior author and professor at Indiana University. "School uniforms are worn directly on the skin for up to eight hours per day by children, who are particularly vulnerable to harm."

Through skin absorption, eating with dirty hands, hand-to-mouth practises, and smaller children mouthing clothing, PFAS from treated uniforms may be ingested by youngsters. Fluorotelomer alcohols, the main type of PFAS found in the uniforms, also pose a risk by inhalation. Additionally, when PFAS-treated uniforms are worn, cleaned, thrown away, or recycled, they contribute to PFAS pollution of the environment.

Many PFAS have been connected to a wide range of significant health hazards, including cancer, obesity, and more severe COVID-19 results, and contaminate the drinking water of many millions of people.

Only a small part of the thousands of PFAS have been examined for toxicity, and all PFAS are either extremely persistent in the environment or breakdown into additional PFAS that are likewise extremely persistent. In addition, a number of more recent PFAS that were once believed to be safe have been shown to be harmful to our health.

About 25% of children in the US go to school in uniform. One-fifth of public schools in the United States compel students to wear uniforms, with elementary and low-income schools having the highest prevalence. They are far more common in Catholic and other private schools in Canada and the United States.

"I don't know any parent who values stain repellency over their child's health," said Miriam Diamond, co-author and professor at the University of Toronto.

The research published today is timely since PFAS phase-out legislation is moving forward in California and New York, which would affect school uniforms. The state legislatures of New York and California have approved S6291A and AB1817, respectively, and are now waiting for the governors to sign them.

In order to protect our children and future generations, Arlene Blum, co-author and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, emphasised that the entire class of PFAS should be removed from school uniforms and any other products where they are not required. "Manufacturers can reduce risk by phasing out PFAS as soon as practicable," she states.

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