Forever Chemicals Are Going Out of Style

By: Anneken Tappe · March 27, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

Farewell PFAS

Several clothing companies, including Patagonia and the footwear company KEEN, are leading the charge to remove PFAS — also known as “forever chemicals” — from their products in response to regulatory changes and environmental concerns.

PFAS are a group of thousands of chemicals with properties that help repel water and other liquids, making them commonplace in water-resistant clothing. However, they can also take centuries to break down in nature and have been linked to serious illnesses, including thyroid disease and kidney cancer.

Legal Action

Emerging research behind the negative environmental impact of PFAS has sparked legal action.

Chemical manufacturer 3M (MMM) recently agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle multiple class action lawsuits alleging that its products played a role in contaminating water supplies. Nearly half of all U.S. tap water contains PFAS, per U.S. Geological Survey estimates. In addition to the settlement, 3M plans to stop making forever chemicals by 2025.

Some states have also implemented bans on PFAS in various consumer products, including California, Maine, Minnesota, New York, and Washington.

Unique Problem, Unique Opportunity

The movement away from PFAS presents a unique challenge for companies.

Waterproof materials are a necessity for many essential products, such as firefighter uniforms. These products’ manufacturers will need to find a replacement for PFAS while still maintaining quality and functionality.

Companies like Patagonia and Keen have already been experimenting with PFAS alternatives for about two decades. In particular, Patagonia has agreed to share any breakthroughs with other companies, in hopes of pioneering change across industries.

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