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Grading Clothing Companies' Commitments to Eliminating 'Forever Chemicals'


Monday, April 11, 2022   

A new report grades clothing companies based on their commitment to phasing out a toxic class of chemicals known as PFAS.

Three of the companies graded are based in Oregon, including Keen Footwear, which received an 'A minus' for removing PFAS from its shoes. However, Nike and Portland-based Columbia Sportswear fared worse, getting 'D plus' and 'F' grades, respectively.

Charlie Fisher is state director of the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, or OSPIRG. He said PFAS are used to make clothing water, grease and stain resistant.

"The problem is that these chemicals are toxic to human health and persist in the environment and our bodies for so long that they have been given the nickname 'forever chemicals'," said Fisher. "And exposure to PFAS has been linked to really a wide range of serious health effects, such as kidney and liver disease, immune system suppression and even cancer."

Of the 30 apparel brands surveyed in the report, 18 received a 'D' grade or lower for their weak commitments to eliminating PFAS. Levi Strauss received the highest marks.

The report was compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Fashion FWD, and the US PIRG Education Fund.

Fisher said companies such as Columbia Sportswear are making some efforts to get PFAS out of their supply chain. He said Columbia Sportswear has a sustainable clothing line committed to removing PFAS this year.

"It demonstrates that they believe there's a feasibility in removing PFAS from the supply chain, yet they haven't made any commitments for the rest of their products," said Fisher. "And so, they show that it's possible and we just think that it's time that they take the next step."

The report recommends companies phase out PFAS and replace them with safe alternatives. It also says the apparel brands should label clothing that has PFAS in it so that consumers can make informed decisions about what they're buying.

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