‘Green’ children’s products may still contain toxic PFAS chemicals

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

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With consumers looking for products free of toxic chemicals, determining which ones are safe may be more difficult than first thought. 

According to research from the Silent Spring Institute (SSI), children’s products marketed as “green” and “non-toxic”, including those with green certifications, may still contain toxic PFAS chemicals.

PFAS, which stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that disrupts the proper functioning of hormones – the chemical has a profound impact on still-developing bodies. 

The substance has been linked to delayed brain development and immune systems problems in children.

The researchers tested 93 items marketed to or often used by children and adolescents, including clothing, face masks, mattress protectors, rugs, sheets, and upholstery. Fluorine, a PFAS indicator, was found in 54 of the 93 products. 

The highest Fluorine concentration was found in a school uniform shirt, while products marked as water- or stain-resistant – even those labelled as ‘eco-friendly’ – were found to have high concentrations compared with other products.

“I was surprised to see how frequently PFAS showed up in a wide range of different consumer products,” Laurel Schaider, co-author and lead researcher on the study, told EHN.

PFAS are widely used to make consumer products non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant. It’s used in everyday items such as food packaging, cookware, cosmetics, apparel, and even dental floss.

Some waterproof products with the green certifications Greenguard Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100, two certifications created to reduce chemical hazards to human health, contain evidence of PFAS.

Dominik Kinschel, product manager for Oeko-Tex, told EHN that PFAS are a large class of substances, and the certification’s framework regulates not all. However, Oeko-tex plans to phase out 100-per-cent of PFAS chemicals in apparel textiles over the next few years.

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.

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