January 23, 2023 2 min read
Water-resistant, stain-proof… These labels definitely seem attractive, but have you thought about how they are made this way? Most clothing, furniture and more, claimed to be ‘resistant’, are treated with PFAS, a group of chemicals that lead to harmful health issues, such as cancer, organ damage, and cholesterol increase.
Known as ‘forever chemicals’, PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are synthetic chemicals that do not break down easily, they can stay in our bodies for a very long time (hence the ‘forever’). These chemicals are present in all sorts of products that we use on a daily basis: fabrics, clothing, non-stick cookware, water, cosmetics, and much more.
Numerous health problems are linked with the use and consumption of these toxins. Research studies show that PFAS can cause reproductive and developmental difficulties, liver and kidney problems, as well as interference with the body’s natural hormones. Other concerns include an increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers, and a reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response. (1)
PFAS are widely used in the textile industry because of the benefits of water, oil, and dirt repellency. They also increase thermal resistance and breathability. (2) These advantages surely appeal to the consumers. The choice of a performance fabric over a non-treated one is obvious, even though it might cost more. For rugs, many companies offer them liquid and stain proof. Children and adults can play, eat and drink on them without a worry. However, with the presence of these treated textiles in your house, the chemicals release unhealthy compounds into the air, polluting it. Continuously breathing poor quality air will lead to several major health problems.
With the medical research studies, some cities and companies have started banning PFAS products. Organizations have also developed certifications making sure the stuff you are buying are chemical-free and non-toxic. For textiles, you can look for GOTS and OEKO-TEX certifications. GOTS not only sets standards for the materials but also for social and environmental aspects. The organization ensures fair trade and no child labour.
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