Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals. Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Most UK waste still ends up in landfill, and this includes PFAS-containing products. Studies have shown that the liquid coming from landfills (known as leachate) often contain non-polymer PFAS chemicals. In the USA the total quantities were estimated at 563-638 kg in 2013. To properly break down PFAS chemicals high temperature (1000oC or more) incineration is recommended. Incineration of municipal waste does not necessarily reach these temperatures (min temp. required is 850oC), and the incomplete breakdown could release non-polymer PFAS.Wash and wear of clothing that contains PFAS-based stain-resistant or water repellent finishes release PFAS to the environment. Coatings are thought to lose effectiveness after 20-30 washes. This can include non-polymer PFAS, remnant from production or as a break-down product of side-chain polymers (Lassen et al. 2015). The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes releases PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. PFAS are very hard to remove during water treatment. Industrial emissions are estimated to be the biggest source of these chemicals to the environment.

School Uniform Survey

We have conducted a nationwide survey, including over 600 parents of primary school age children across the UK, to ask them about their school uniform washing and purchasing habits. We wanted to know:

  • What choices do customers make when buying uniform?
  • Do people alter their washing and buying habits in response to stain-resistant finishes on school uniforms?

The results of this small study will be used to increase our understanding of the market and understand what consumers want and need from school uniforms. This is used to help define our campaign approach. Key results are also fed on to research and development teams, and to retail and supply contacts, to help them ensure customer needs continue to be met whilst we accomplish our goal of eliminating the input of harmful chemicals to the environment.

Survey results

We’re excited that our full survey report is now available, and you can download it by clicking the button below.

The report tells us that:

  • Customers that seek out stain resistance on uniforms are, on average, washing their clothes more often.
  • Customers that seek out stain resistance on uniforms are, on average, replacing their clothes more frequently.
  • Customers who seek out environmentally friendly products are just as likely to value stain resistance as those who don’t.
  • Timing of washes, and replacing clothing, seem to be based on habit rather than need. For example, trousers and jumpers are likely to be washed roughly once a week and uniform is bought new around once a year.

These results suggest that stain resistance on uniforms isn’t resulting in reduced washing or increased durability of clothes, as claimed by manufacturers. We think this supports our idea that these coatings might not be making a big difference to the convenience of daily life.

What do you think?