Let’s show toxic chemicals the red card in our sportswear
Many of us play sport, be it joyfully or begrudgingly, for its numerous benefits to our physical and mental health. However, studies have found that our morning jog, or 5-a-side football, may be exposing us to harmful chemicals.
Back in 2014 a Greenpeace investigation found that several popular sports clothing brands were using harmful chemicals, including PFAS, in their apparel at worrying high levels.
PFAS, a family of 4700 chemicals, do not degrade in the environment, earning them the moniker ‘forever chemicals’. They have been linked to a host of human health problems, including the promotion of certain cancers.
This report led to brands such as Adidas agreeing to stop using PFAS in their clothing. Eight years on and studies are still finding chemicals, linked to human health issues, in sportswear.
One recent study by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), tested sports bras and athletic shirts for Bisphenol A (BPA). They found eight brands of sports bras, and six brands of athletic shirts, had products with levels of BPA 22 times over the limit set by California law (where these products were being sold). The CEH sent legal notices to all these companies, including well-known brands such as Nike and Reebok.
BPA is a worrying chemical as its ability to mimic oestrogen in our body allows it to derail our natural hormone processes. Exposure to BPA has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
This is not the only study to find toxic chemicals in our sports clothing this year. A study back in January by ENH.com and Mamavation, tested woman’s sportswear for PFAS, finding, once again, several brands using it in their clothing.
To see PFAS still being used in sportswear eight years after Greenpeace’s original study is concerning, if not overly surprising.
The issues of companies continuing to contaminate their products with harmful chemicals is not a new phenomenon and has been seen in other clothing, including school uniforms. It is why, even though some companies claim to be cracking down on chemicals, voluntary self-regulation is not enough. We need robust legislation to protect our health, our environment, and our future from these chemicals.
CHEM Trust is calling on EU Member States and the Commission to ban PFAS, in consumer products by 2025 and across all uses by 2030. We have also been calling for action on bisphenols for many years. The European Chemicals Agency recently published a restriction dossier on BPA and four other bisphenols, we will be keeping a close eye on this as it develops.
Read more about our recommendations for action on bisphenols here