After greater than a yr of stress from environmental teams, the foremost outside retailer REI announced on Tuesday that it’ll ban hazardous “without end chemical compounds” from all its clothes and cookware by fall 2024.
REI’s new product standards would require its suppliers to remove all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, from the pots, pans, attire, sneakers, baggage, packs, and comparable gear bought by the retail chain. Suppliers of industrial quality attire like professional-grade raincoats may have till 2026 to make these merchandise PFAS-free.
Mike Schade, a program director for the nonprofit Poisonous-Free Future, instructed Grist the choice would “drive one more nail within the coffin for PFAS.”
PFAS are a class of over 9,000 human-made chemicals whose nonstick and water-repellent properties have made them helpful in an array of shopper merchandise, from outside clothes to pans to firefighting foam. These substances don’t break down naturally within the surroundings — therefore the title “without end chemical compounds” — and have been detected within the bloodstream of 97 percent of Individuals and hundreds of wild animal species worldwide. Whereas regulators are nonetheless wanting into the complete well being implications of PFAS, the chemical compounds have already been linked to severe human well being issues including cancer and liver damage.
Over the previous a number of years, retailers and producers around the globe — together with, most not too long ago, the Fortune 500 company 3M — have pledged to cease producing PFAS and part them out of the merchandise they promote. However different corporations, like REI, have been perceived as sluggish to reply. Since September 2021, REI has been the goal of a national campaign urging it to set a concrete timeline for eliminating without end chemical compounds, not solely from its private-label merchandise however from different manufacturers’ clothes that it sells in its shops.
Schade stated not doing so was inconsistent with REI’s branding as an environmental champion. “PFAS leaves behind a poisonous path of air pollution,” he instructed Grist. He cited widespread drinking water contamination from PFAS production facilities throughout the US, in addition to issues additional downstream, when PFAS shear off waterproof clothes. PFAS may also muck up indoor air quality in properties and stores, wafting into the air from handled merchandise like clothes.
Previous to this week’s complete ban, REI stated that it aimed to “increase” using PFAS options and that it didn’t use two of the most typical without end chemical compounds — referred to as PFOA and PFOS. It was, nevertheless, utilizing newer, so-called “short-chain” PFAS the place “viable options” didn’t but exist. (A few of REI’s opponents, together with Jack Wolfskin and Fjallraven, say they’ve already completed the transition to those various applied sciences, which may embrace choices like polyurethane, a type of plastic materials, or brand-name chemical therapies like Empel that market themselves as environmentally pleasant.) Critics have been fast to level out that these short-chain variations should not essentially any safer than longer-chain types of PFAS. And a current independent test of REI attire discovered each short- and (the allegedly banned) long-chain types of PFAS.
In the meantime, REI and different clothes corporations are being pushed to behave by authorized stress — significantly in New York, the place a not too long ago enacted legislation bans PFAS from most attire by the top of this yr. The legislation is predicted to create a nationwide normal, since corporations are unlikely to create separate, PFAS-free product strains only for the Empire State. California additionally has a ban on PFAS in most attire, however its legislation doesn’t go into impact till 2025.
Schade applauded REI for its new PFAS elimination timeline, however he urged the retailer to keep away from “regrettable substitutions” by taking steps to make sure that any alternative chemical compounds used to waterproof its merchandise are additionally secure for shoppers.
This text initially appeared in Grist at https://grist.org/accountability/rei-will-ban-forever-chemicals-from-clothes-and-cookware-in-2024/. Grist is a nonprofit, impartial media group devoted to telling tales of local weather options and a simply future. Be taught extra at Grist.org