Dick’s Sporting Goods bans PFAS “forever chemicals” in its textiles
June 14, 2023
New commitment follows testing that found PFAS in its products, nationwide campaign, and state regulatory actions
Health advocates urge Dick’s Sporting Goods to ensure safer substitutes and call on other retailers to ban PFAS
SEATTLE, WA—Outdoor athletic retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods quietly announced it will ban PFAS "forever chemicals"in its own-brand textile products. This action was part of a major update to its Restricted Substance List (RSL) created in March. The company is one of the largest sporting retailers in the nation, operating more than 850 stores and, as of 2022, earning $12.37 billion in sales.
This commitment follows mounting public pressure and new state bans on PFAS. A 2022 study by Toxic-Free Future that found PFAS in jackets and other textiles sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retailers was the basis for a nationwide campaign challenging retailers like REI to stop using PFAS. That campaign, led by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program in partnership with Safer States allies and other organizations, held public actions across the U.S. demanding action. REI announced a ban on PFAS in February, one month prior to Dick’s Sporting Goods' new commitment. In 2022, California and New York passed legislation to restrict PFAS in apparel and other textiles.
The production and disposal of PFAS have polluted communities and contaminated the drinking water of millions of U.S. residents across the U.S., including at Daikin’s PFAS facility in Decatur, AL and Chemours’ PFAS plant in Fayetteville, NC, to name a few.
In response to Dicks Sporting Goods’ new policy, the following statements were made:
“Dick’s Sporting Goods has taken critical action by saying no to dangerous PFAS chemicals in its own-brand textiles,” said Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “When our testing found these dangerous chemicals in their products last year, we knew that action must be taken. No one’s drinking water should be polluted for a raincoat. Though this is a major step forward, Dick’s Sporting Goods must now work with suppliers to evaluate the safety of alternatives, to avoid replacing one toxic substance with another. And other retailers must also take action towards achieving healthier and more sustainable products.”
“State leaders are excited to see companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods demonstrate leadership,” said Sarah Doll, Safer States national director. “States from California to Colorado to New York have stepped up to protect communities by banning PFAS in textiles. It is gratifying to see companies follow suit.”
“Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to ban PFAS means communities like mine have a fighting chance at a healthier future,” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear, a grassroots organization working to restore and protect the air, soil, water, and food supply from PFAS contamination near Chemours in NC.
“It’s a great day for customers who buy these products that the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods put customers and their families over profits,” said Brenda Hampton, founder of Concerned Citizens of WMEL Water Authority, a grassroots organization working to clean up PFAS drinking water contamination from Daikin and 3M around Decatur, AL. “And I would like to thank my father above for getting into their hearts.”
BACKGROUND ON PFAS “FOREVER CHEMICALS”
Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to products such as paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. PFAS have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, immune system suppression, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are known as “forever” chemicals because they persist and don’t break down in the environment.
Toxic-Free Future released a 2022 study that found PFAS in most products labeled stain- and water-resistant, with 72% testing positive for PFAS—including products from REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and other major retailers. A 2021 peer-reviewed study led by scientists at Toxic-Free Future, the University of Washington, and Indiana University found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people. And Toxic-Free Future’s 2021 investigative report revealed that a PFAS manufacturing facility is a major source of both PFAS pollution and ozone-depleting chemicals that contribute to health problems and climate change.
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, MN, and WA have given state agencies the authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products. Maine and Minnesota’s laws require product manufacturers to disclose the presence of PFAS. Several states have adopted restrictions on PFAS in textiles with CA banning PFAS in almost all textiles, NY restricting them in apparel, CO banning them in upholstered furniture, and WA moving forward on regulatory actions on many categories of textile products. Eight states (CA, CO, ME, MD, MN, NY, VT, and WA) have adopted restrictions on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments. Twelve states (CA, CO, CT, HI, MD, ME, MN, NY, OR, RI, VT, and WA) have enacted state bans on PFAS in food packaging. Five states (CA, CO, MD, MN, and WA) have adopted restrictions on PFAS in personal care products. CO also adopted restrictions on oil and gas products. Twelve states including CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, ME, MD, MN, NH, NY, VT, and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS. Withlegislation adopted last year, WA is evaluating safer alternatives for PFAS in products such as apparel, cleaners, coatings, floor finishes, firefighter turnout gear, and others with a timeline of adopting restrictions by 2025.
Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to eliminate PFAS in key product sectors, according to the Retailer Report Card. Many outdoor and textiles brands have announced policies to reduce and eliminate PFAS. REI announced a ban on PFAS in its textiles following a nationwide campaign urging REI to “opt-out” of PFAS led by the Mind the Store program of Toxic-Free Future in partnership with Safer States and other organizations. Patagonia has pledged to eliminate all PFAS across its entire product line by 2024. In July 2022, Columbia committed to a goal of phasing out PFAS by the end of 2024. In 2021, Polartec announced it was eliminating PFAS in its DWR (durable water repellent) treatments across its line of performance fabrics. Lowe’s and The Home Depot are no longer selling indoor residential carpets or rugs with PFAS, and Lowe’s also committed to stop selling fabric protection sprays with PFAS. Currently,over 30 unique retail chains with more than 150,000 stores and more than $654 billion in sales have committed to eliminating or reducing PFAS in food packaging, textiles, and/or other products.
Despite state bans, increasing litigation, and significant market shifts away from toxic PFAS, Chemours has proposed to expand its PFAS manufacturing in North Carolina against the wishes of local community members. Meanwhile, 3M recently announced a global phase-out of PFAS production.
Toxic-Free Future is a national leader in environmental health research and advocacy. Through the power of science, education, and activism, Toxic-Free Future drives strong laws and corporate responsibility that protects the health of all people and the planet.
Safer States is an alliance of diverse environmental health organizations and coalitions from across the nation committed to building a healthier world. By harnessing place-based power, the alliance works to safeguard people and the planet from toxic chemicals and sparks innovative solutions for a more sustainable future.
“Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to ban PFAS means communities like mine have a fighting chance at a healthier future,” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear.