Rain, rain, go away… But the rain is here to stay here in the maritime Northwest, where your choice of rain gear can make all the difference. If you’re thinking of buying some new gear, this issue is for you! There are many chemicals used to make waterproof gear, and we’ll help you choose products that are safest for your family and the environment.
The most important material to avoid when choosing rain gear is vinyl, or PVC plastic.
Vinyl is commonly used for children’s rain gear, heavy duty adult rain gear, hats, and boots, and can contain toxic chemicals including lead and phthalates. Vinyl has a very ‘plastic’ appearance compared with gear made of vinyl-free fabric. It can have different textures and linings, so the best way to identify it is to check tags and avoid any item containing vinyl, PVC, or polyvinyl chloride (these are all the same thing). Thankfully, clothing is usually labeled, though you may have to dig in the sleeves to find the tags.
Also avoid clothing made with “Teflon chemicals”when you can.
Some raingear is made using chemicals called PFCs (perfluorinated compounds), or “Teflon chemicals.” These chemicals persist in the environment and have been linked to health effects including cancer and reproductive problems. Look for the brands Teflon, Scotchgard, and Gore-tex to identify items made with PFCs. We don’t know if people are exposed to these toxic chemicals from treated clothes during everyday use, but reducing your use of products made or treated with PFCs is a healthy choice.
So what’s left to choose from?
A lot! Anything made of vinyl-free fabrics (like nylon and polyester) is fine, unless it is coated with Gore-Tex. Gore-tex is not as common as it used to be, and safer alternatives for kids include REI Cascade Rain Jacket, Lands End Kids’ Rain Slicker, and i-play Rainwear (available at Target and Toys ‘R’ Us).
Rubber boots are a great alternative to vinyl boots. Children’s rubber boots we found include Western Chief, LL Bean, and Kids’ Uda Frog Rain Boot (available at Target). Vinyl boots and rubber boots can look similar and aren’t always labeled, so if you need help ask a sales clerk or call the manufacturer.