Keep Forever Chemicals out of Apparel
Pass the Safer Clothing and Textiles Act and protect the health of people and the planet.
Dear Governor Newsom,
From the beginning of a garment’s life at a factory to the end of its life cycle in a landfill, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-- a class of around 9,000 man-made chemicals– pollute the planet at every stage, contaminating the air we breathe and the water we drink (1). Used for a wide range of purposes including apparel, they are known as “forever” chemicals because they take centuries to break down, building up in our bodies and the environment, and putting future generations at risk.
While California has already passed laws to phase out all PFAS in firefighting foam, paper based food packaging, and children’s products, it is imperative that PFAS are also banned in textiles (1). PFAS market research identified the textile industry as the biggest user of fluorotelomer (a main subgroup of PFAS), making up approximately 36% of the total fluorotelomer market–and the industry is projected to remain on the top of the list in the coming years (1).
Today we ask that you pass AB-1817: Safer Clothing and Textiles Act (CA) which would ban PFAS in apparel and set an example for other states and the federal government to mitigate the impact of these chemicals on human and environmental welfare:
Human welfare- It is estimated that over 98% of Americans have PFAS in their blood (2). These forever chemicals have been linked to severe health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, kidney and liver damage, thyroid disease, developmental harm, and immune system disruption, including interference with vaccine efficacy (1). PFAS-coated products can expose individuals directly during use or indirectly through washing or dry cleaning which releases the chemicals into water sources. In California, water systems serving up to 16 million people have already been found to have PFAS contamination (1).
Environmental welfare- The production of PFAS at chemical and garment factories contaminates the surrounding air, water, and soil and emits “climate super pollutants” such as HCFC-22 and HFC-23 which are up to 10,800 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, on a twenty year timescale (3). The emissions of these two compounds from just a single PFAS polymer manufacturing plant are the equivalent of the annual carbon dioxide pollution from 750,000 passenger cars (3). At the end of their lifecycle, PFAS-coated clothing dumped in landfills leaks PFAS into groundwater and incineration can result in contamination of waterways. The local environment is not solely affected, as the pollution generated travels through ocean waves or rain, with wide-reaching global impacts (4). As of August 2nd, 2022, researchers from Stockholm University and ETH Zurich have concluded that forever chemicals have rendered all rain water undrinkable across the globe (5).
AB-1817: Safer Clothing and Textiles Act was introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D- San Francisco) on February 7th, 2022. It is vital legislation that can protect the health of people and the planet by banning the sale of clothes, outdoor gear, and other textiles containing these toxic forever chemicals in California (2). The toxicity and persistence of PFAS makes their use unjustifiable to address non-life-threatening stains or moisture, especially when alternatives exist for a great majority of the stain-repellency and water-proofing needs in textiles (1).
PFAS disproportionately affects individuals in impoverished communities as well as women. Contaminated drinking water is more prevalent in low-income communities where the chemical and garment factories are located, and while contaminated rainwater may not affect those in developed areas who can afford to drink filtered or bottled water, those who rely on rainwater will be greatly affected. Women are at risk of breast cancer and PFAS can be transferred from mothers to their babies through the placenta before birth and through breast milk after birth (2).
The legislature previously supported banning the use of PFAS for other uses because stricter legislation is the best solution to prevent further contamination and protect the health of our planet and future generations. AB-1817: Safer Clothing and Textiles Act must be passed and signed as soon as possible.
1. Bcpp.org. (n.d.). AB-1817 Fact Sheet. https://www.bcpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/AB-1817-Cosponsor-Fact-Sheet_May6_Final.pdf
2. Ban PFAS in Textiles . Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). (2022, July 25). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.bcpp.org/resource/ban-pfas-in-textiles-ca-ab1817-ting/
3. Nrdc.org. (n.d.) PFAS Polymers Fact Sheet. https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/pfas-polymer-fs.pdf
4. Lindwall, C. & Ginty, M. (2022, April 6). "Forever Chemicals" Called PFAS Show up in Your Food, Clothes, and Home. NRDC. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/forever-chemicals-called-pfas-show-your-food-clothes-and-home
5. Cousins, I. T., et al. (2022, August 2). Outside the Safe Operating Space of a New Planetary Boundary for (PFAS). ACS Publications. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.2c02765
6. AB-1817 Bill text. California Legislative Information. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB1817