Scientists find high levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in school uniforms

Millions of students in the U.S. and Canada are being exposed to toxic “forever chemicals” through the uniforms they wear every day, a new study finds. The

exposure to these compounds — also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — lies in the “stain-resistant” technology often marketed as an advantage in the fabrics.

The scientists behind Wednesday’s study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, said they detected PFAS in uniforms from all the popular brands that they

tested. “PFAS don’t belong in any clothing, but their use in school uniforms is particularly concerning,” senior author Marta Venier, a professor of environmental

chemistry at Indiana University, said in a statement. “School uniforms are worn directly on the skin for up to eight hours per day by children, who are particularly

vulnerable to harm.” Venier added. Known for their ability to persist in the human body and the environment, PFAS are notorious for their presence in firefighting foams

and industrial discharge. These cancer-linked compounds are also key ingredients in many household items, such as nonstick pans, cosmetics and waterproof hiking clothes.

But most school uniforms tested in Wednesday’s study contained PFAS concentrations as high as those in outdoor apparel, the researchers found.  In total, the

scientists said they analyzed 72 children’s textiles marketed as stain-resistant in the U.S. and Canada in 2020 and 2021. While they predominantly focused on uniforms,

they also sampled other fabrics that come into contact with children, such as snowsuits, bibs, sweatshirts and stroller covers.