PFAS—the toxic “forever chemical”—is broadly used in producing a wide variety of textile consumer products including carpets and rugs, upholstery, indoor and outdoor wear, shoes, and backpacks.
Use of products containing PFAS can lead to PFAS exposure via ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact, as well as emission of PFAS into the environment (for example, laundry wastewater discharge). However, product use only accounts for a portion of PFAS emissions and exposure. Other stages in a product’s life cycle—including chemical manufacturing and formulation, product manufacturing and production, and product disposal—all contribute significantly to PFAS emissions, and therefore exposure, due to the extreme persistence, high mobility, and accumulation potential of PFAS.
As the current piecemeal approach to PFAS management—either chemical-by-chemical or by use—is not effective in preventing ongoing damages to public health and the environment, both government official and textile brands should address and eliminate PFAS as a class.