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Consumer Reports: 'Forever chemicals' found in school uniforms

PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they essentially never break down naturally.

ST. LOUIS — We send our kids to school every day and expect them to be safe. But what if they’re exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals before they even get out the front door? As Consumer Reports explains, the fabric of some school uniforms could be loaded with what’s called “forever chemicals.”

Millions of children wear them every day: school uniforms. And according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, some uniforms have higher levels of potentially dangerous PFAS chemicals than other types of children’s clothing tested, such as bibs, hats, and swimsuits.

PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they essentially never break down naturally. They’re often added to products to make them waterproof, stain-resistant, or nonsticking.

In recent years PFAS have been linked to a growing list of health problems, including an increased risk for certain cancers, liver damage, and neurodevelopmental problems. And children’s exposure is of particular concern.  

In the study, 30 stain-resistant school uniforms were tested. The chemicals were found in all of them.

Kids wear these clothes against their skin for hours every day, and these chemicals can stay in the body for months or even years. So it’s really important to limit exposure where possible.

Now some states are stepping up. For example, New York and California have passed bills that phase out PFAS from textiles by 2024 and 2025.

That does little to help anxious parents right now, but there are some ways to limit your child’s exposure to PFAS.

If you have the option, say, your school requires a blue polo but not from a specific store,  buy one that’s not labeled stain-resistant because stain-resistant coatings often contain PFAS.

And parents can also limit exposure from other sources by testing their drinking water and using a water filter certified to remove PFAS. And avoid stain-resistant carpets and home products.

It might also be a good idea to order takeout from places that have phased PFAS out of their food packaging.

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