Health advocates call for a ban of PFAS “forever chemicals” in products
Seattle, WA – After decades of providing waterproof outdoor materials using PFAS chemicals, Gore, the maker of GORE-TEX®, today announced a step away from these chemicals. Gore will offer a new option for the key membrane that provides waterproofing in its consumer outdoor clothing products. The new membrane is made without PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), but GORE-TEX® items generally have a second waterproofing treatment, a surface coating known as durable water repellent (DWR) made of PFAS. The first products using this new PFAS-free membrane will be available for purchase in late 2022. The new membrane technology, called ePE by Gore, is an alternative to the company’s ePTFE membrane, which is made with PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” Gore has not yet publicly committed to eliminating all PFAS from manufacturing GORE-TEX® or in DWR treatments used on GORE-TEX products.
“Although a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough,” said Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “Without a commitment to banning PFAS as a class in all of its products, Gore will continue to contribute to PFAS pollution. Major brands and retailers must act swiftly to reduce and eliminate all PFAS, including membranes and surface coatings, in outdoor apparel and other textiles. There’s no reason why businesses like REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods should continue to sell products made with forever chemicals that are contaminating communities and the environment around the globe.”
“We have known for years that PFAS is not needed for our rain gear and now Gore’s new product will provide another alternative for companies to use,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future. “The increasing contamination of people and breastmilk due to the use of these chemicals in our clothing and other products must end. We urge governments to ban the widespread use of PFAS, starting in Washington state and ending in Washington DC.”
Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. A growing body of scientific research has found links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are often referred to as “forever” chemicals because they are not known to break down in the environment and can easily move through soil to drinking water. With remarkable persistence and mobility, PFAS have become global pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife. A recent peer-reviewed study by Toxic-Free Future found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people.
State governments are taking legislative and regulatory actions to phase out PFAS in products to prevent contamination in favor of safer alternatives. For example, laws in ME and WA have given state agencies authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products. CT, ME, MN, NY, VT, and WA have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging. VT and ME adopted bans on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments and regulatory action is pending on these products and other home textiles (e.g. upholstery, bedding) in CA and WA. CO, CA, CT, NY, NH, ME, and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
Federal legislation to protect communities and ban PFAS in multiple product sectors has been or is expected to be introduced.
Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors including textiles, according to the annual Retailer Report Card published by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program.
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advances the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through science, organizing, advocacy, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a Toxic-Free Future program dedicated to achieving strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. Mind the Store is a Toxic-Free Future program that challenges retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives, and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies in an annual Retailer Report Card.
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