Federal action needed to get PFAS out of children’s clothes and other consumer products 

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – Today, Environmental Defence released testing results that show children’s and youth gloves that contain toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, or “forever chemicals” are being sold in Canada. As the weather warms and parents are putting away chewed on and worn-out children’s winter clothing, this is a wake up call to the federal government to urgently regulate and phase out PFAS in children’s and other consumer products.

PFAS pose a risk to children’s health, and their presence in these everyday items adds fuel to the urgent demand for federal action to get PFAS out of products.

“This is another damning piece of evidence that we need comprehensive PFAS regulations in Canada to protect kids from toxic chemicals,” said Cassie Barker, Senior Program Manager for Toxics at Environmental Defence. “It doesn’t take much PFAS to harm our thyroid, immune system and kidneys, particularly for children whose bodies and delicate systems are still developing. We need to put the health of our kids ahead of a few chemical companies’ interests and profits. The federal government has the power and responsibility to get this highly toxic class of chemicals listed and phased out.”

Eleven pairs of gloves were tested from three Canadian retailers:

  • 8 of 11 (73%) of the gloves tested were found to contain water soluble PFAS, likely fluoroacrylic coatings

  • The products were purchased in-store and online through Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, and Walmart in Ontario

  • Brands tested included Columbia, Flapjack Kids, Helly Hansen, Hot Paws, Igloo, Kombi, Lolmot, The North Face, Outbound, and Ripzone

  • Helly Hansen, Outbound, and Ripzone did not have detectable levels of PFAS

“Water soluble PFAS salts are very common in a wide range of products in Canada,” said Bruce Calder, VP Consulting Services with Claigan Environmental. “In the case of winter gloves, fabric with fluoroacrylate coatings, if not properly controlled, degrades into water soluble fluoro salts.  Being water soluble, these PFAS salts have the potential to be released—in particular if placed in the mouth or into the laundry.”

These PFAS coatings are a significant problem because they release PFOA, a highly toxic chemical that can cause harms at very low exposures, particularly for developing children’s hormone, cardiovascular and immune health. Young children often chew on their gloves and touch their faces, making PFAS-laden gloves particularly concerning.

“Children are disproportionately affected by exposure to PFAS, from cancers to thyroid disease, immune system effects and increased risk of asthma,” said Dr. Joy Hataley, Physician with Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) Ontario. “These adverse health effects warrant strong action to eliminate PFAS from products that are made for children.”

“Enough foot-dragging,” said Dr.Elaine MacDonald, Healthy Communities Director at Ecojustice. “Canada must immediately move to phase out the use of PFAS in consumer products. The longer Canada delays action, the greater the environmental and health costs of unabated PFAS use.”

Read the full lab report here.

Background:

  • PFAS are used in various industries and have been found in over 200 product types such as cookware, textiles, cosmetics, firefighting gear and foam, and intimate personal care products, like menstrual products and diapers.

  • The main products with water soluble PFAS in Canada are waterproof fabrics, laptops, tablets, servers, coffee machines, pool tape, and metal powder coatings.

  • The PFAS found in this testing have been linked to a range of adverse health outcomes, including asthma, low/high infant birth weight, early menopause, immune suppression, thyroid disease, adult cancers (including testicular and kidney) and childhood leukemia, high cholesterol, prediabetes and fatty liver.

  • Polling shows that 4 out of 5 people living in Canada want action on PFAS and are concerned about the health and environmental impacts of this toxic class of chemicals.

  • Firefighters, scientists and environmentalists have been pushing the federal government to go beyond industry resistance and list the entire class of PFAS as toxic under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act, and strengthen proposed regulations to ban PFAS in products.

  • Read the House of Commons motion M-119 here.

  • Read our PFAS backgrounder for more information.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

-30-

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Lauren Thomas, Environmental Defence, media@environmentaldefence.ca