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New study finds unsafe chemical in school uniforms, bill on Newsom's desk would change that

PFAS is a chemical that creates a stain resistant effect, like a tablecloth that would slide red wine off of it if accidentally spilled.
(Generic school photo/ThinkStock)

SAN DIEGO — A new study published by the American Chemical Society Wednesday found a chemical in kid’s school uniform that researchers call unsafe. 

It’s called Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). 

Think stain resistant, like a tablecloth that if you pour wine on, it will slide right off. Researchers say the chemical PFAS that creates that stain resistant effect is dangerous and is present in school uniforms. 

University of Indiana Researcher Dr. Marta Venier is the senior author of the study.

“In our study, we found that total PFAS levels in school uniforms were significantly higher than in other items that we tested such as bibs, hats, stroller covers, and swimsuits,” Dr. Venier said. 

PFAS is a forever chemical, meaning it never breaks down and builds up in nature. 

These are the organs and negative health impacts research say the chemical is linked to: Cancer, thyroid, reproductive organs, immune system, pancreas, and more. 

“It doesn't mean if you have PFAS in your body, because we all do, that you're going to get all these kinds of health harms," said Green Science Policy Institute Dr. Arlene Blum. "But across our whole population of pathos has been found to be very harmful.” 

Because these chemicals are found everywhere now from our drinking water to goods, the Environmental Protection Agency said it’s hard to study the risks and exact impact. These doctors and researchers, however, say there is a reason for concern. 

“About a quarter of U.S children wear school uniforms, and when they do, they wear them for prolonged times up to eight hours," Dr. Venier said. "So, this information combined with the high level of PFAS that we detected is a cause for concern."

PFAS has a stain resistant component, and it's no surprise that kids are known for getting dirty. 

“We have another paper that will come out shortly showing that for the stain resistance to work, you have to wipe things off immediately," Dr. Blum said, "and what kid when they're playing, the stains are wiped off immediately.”

The state already outlawed the sale, manufacturing, and distribution of PFAS in all food packaging. 

Assemblymember Phil Ting authored another bill that’s sitting on the governor’s desk right now that would apply that to all textiles, like clothing, sold in California. 

“Household names that are saying we understand the dangers of this product, and we don't want our customers touching them or really having contact with them," Ting said. "It really helped turn the table.”

Target pledged to remove PFAS from all their brand products by 2025. 

Ikea banned the chemical in all products back in 2016. 

“Under apparel, we did not cover personal protective equipment like firefighting turnouts," Nancy Buermeyer with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners explained. "We hope they will get there but aren't quite there yet.”

Want to know if PFAS is in your clothes or your children’s uniform? Companies aren’t required to put it anywhere on a label. There’s another bill sitting on the governor’s desk that would require products to have that information. 

If you go Pfascentral.org they do have a list of companies that sell products without the chemical. 

If you don’t want to do that, they said a good bare minimum rule of thumb is to avoid stain-resistant products. 

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