Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in North American School Uniforms

By Chunjie Xia, Miriam L. Diamond, Graham F. Peaslee, Hui Peng, Arlene Blum, Zhanyun Wang, Anna Shalin, Heather D. Whitehead, Megan Green, Heather Schwartz-Narbonne, Diwen Yang, and Marta Venier*
September 21, 2022
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c02111

We analyzed 72 children’s textile products marketed as stain-resistant from US and Canadian stores, particularly school uniforms, to assess if clothing represents a significant route of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Products were first screened for total fluorine (total F) using particle-induced γ-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy (n = 72), followed by targeted analysis of 49 neutral and ionic PFAS (n = 57). PFAS were detected in all products from both markets, with the most abundant compound being 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol (6:2 FTOH). Total targeted PFAS concentrations for all products collected from both countries ranged from 0.250 to 153 000 ng/g with a median of 117 ng/g (0.0281–38 100 μg/m2, median: 24.0 μg/m2). Total targeted PFAS levels in school uniforms were significantly higher than in other items such as bibs, hats, stroller covers, and swimsuits, but comparable to outdoor wear. Higher total targeted PFAS concentrations were found in school uniforms made of 100% cotton than synthetic blends. Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) precursors were abundant in school uniforms based on the results of hydrolysis and total oxidizable precursor assay. The estimated median potential children’s exposure to PFAS via dermal exposure through school uniforms was 1.03 ng/kg bw/day. Substance flow analysis estimated that ∼3 tonnes/year (ranging from 0.05 to 33 tonnes/year) of PFAS are used in US children’s uniforms, mostly of polymeric PFAS but with ∼0.1 tonne/year of mobile, nonpolymeric PFAS.


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