Are melamine and its derivatives the alternatives for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) fabric treatments in infant clothes?

By Guomao Zheng and Amina Salamova
Environ. Sci. Technol.
July 21, 2020
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c03035

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and melamine (MEL)-based compounds are used in textile finishing as grease-, stain-, and water-repellents. Here, we investigated the occurrence of a large suite of PFAS and MEL compounds in 86 infant clothing items. ΣMEL concentrations ranged from below the method detection limit (MDL) to 250,000 ng/g with a median concentration of 78.2 ng/g, significantly higher (p < 0.05) than ΣPFAS levels (range 1.22-203 ng/g; median 3.62 ng/g). MEL and its derivatives were most abundant in nylon clothes (median 32,800 ng/g), followed by organic cotton (median 6,120 ng/g). In a simulated laundering experiment, ΣMEL concentrations in clothing decreased on average by ~60% and 90% when washed in cool (20 °C) and warm water (50 °C), respectively. This removal rate increased to 97% when the samples were washed with a detergent. The estimated daily intakes (EDIs) of MEL and PFAS through dermal absorption from nylon clothes were 3 orders of magnitude higher than those from the non-nylon clothes and decreased by more than half for washed clothes. Our findings demonstrate that MEL-based compounds are abundant in infant clothing and suggest that this group of compounds could be used as potential PFAS replacements in textile finishing.

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