Safer States and its allies are working to make textile products safer, more sustainable, and more transparent, with a focus on eliminating PFAS, toxic flame retardants, and poison plastics like PVC (polyvinyl chloride), as well as incentivizing the use of safer chemicals and materials.
Toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” have been often used in clothing, upholstery, carpets, and other commercial textiles to make the products stain- and water-resistent. Testing conducted by Toxic-Free Future and Silent Spring Institute has found that PFAS is widespread in children’s products and in textiles labeled as stain- or water-resistant. Other toxic chemicals, like toxic flame retardants, can be found in textiles such as furniture, mattresses, and car seats. In addition, many textiles are made from synthetic materials such as PVC and PET plastics, which have toxic impacts all along the supply chain.
Textiles, such as clothing, bedding, and upholstery, come into direct and prolonged contact with our skin. Toxic chemicals present in textiles can leach out and be absorbed through the skin, leading to potential health risks. The production and disposal of textiles with toxic chemicals can have a significant environmental impact. During manufacturing, harmful chemicals can be released into the air and water, contributing to pollution and environmental damage. Additionally, when textiles containing toxic chemicals are discarded or incinerated, they can release these chemicals into the environment.
There are lots of complexities surrounding textile manufacturing and supply chains and many issues that need to be addressed to increase the sustainability of textiles. Increasing transparency in the textile industry is crucial for manufacturers and consumers to understand the impacts of their choices and encourage the adoption of safer chemicals and materials alternatives throughout the supply chain. In addition, we need to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in textiles and incentivize a transition to safer and more sustainable chemicals and base materials.
Eight states including California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington have taken action to eliminate PFAS in carpets, rugs, apparel, textile furnishings, upholstered furniture, fabric treatments, and/or other textiles. Safer States has worked alongside Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program to pressure major retailers and manufacturers such as REI, Patagonia, Home Depot, and Target to phase out PFAS from the textiles they sell. In addition, we have been successful in pushing major textile certifiers such as OEKO-TEX, Bluesign, and ZDHC to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals in their standards while highlighting the leadership of progressive and transparent certifiers such as GreenScreen Certified that are working to promote a transition to safer alternatives.
The Safer States’ allies have also helped eliminate the use of unnecessary toxic flame retardants in furniture and baby products. Our work alongside that of state legislatures, firefighters, scientists, manufacturers, market campaigns, and the media, has caused a market shift that has reduced our exposure to these deadly chemicals. However, more work remains to be done to reduce exposure to harmful flame retardants. For example, testing conducted by Safer States partner Ecology Center shows that many children’s car seats still contain flame retardants and PFAS.