SEATTLE, Wash. — February 22, 2023 — Yesterday, outdoor retailer REI announced it will ban PFAS “forever chemicals” (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in all textile products and cookware from its suppliers, in a major update to its “Product Impact Standards” for its more than 1,000 brand partners. REI’s restrictions take effect in the fall of 2024 for cookware and textile products including, but not limited to, apparel, accessories, footwear, packs, and bags. REI has granted a longer timeline for professional, expedition-level apparel to fall of 2026.
REI’s new policy commitment comes more than a year after the launch of the nationwide marketplace campaign, REI, time to opt-out of PFAS, led by the Mind the Store program of Toxic-Free Future in partnership with Safer States and other organizations. During the national campaign, thousands of people and organizations urged Seattle-based REI to ban PFAS in products it sells, via letters, petitions, rallies, and social media. Toxic-Free Future published an original study, Toxic Convenience, in January 2022, revealing PFAS in private-label and brand name clothing sold at REI and other retailers. Last fall, REI members and advocates in more than 20 cities rallied and delivered petitions signed by more than 130,000 people to REI stores nationwide, demanding the company ban PFAS in the products it sells. Since then, petition signatures have grown to more than 155,000. Although REI addressed PFAS through a statement released in September, the company did not set a timeline to ban these toxic forever chemicals — until now.
REI’s announcement also comes after numerous states have taken regulatory action on PFAS in apparel and cookware. California, Colorado, Maine, New York, Maine, and Washington have taken steps to regulate PFAS in apparel and cookware through restrictions, labeling, or disclosure. More state action is pending.
REI’s new policy comes at a time when the production and disposal of PFAS have impacted the drinking water of communities across the U.S. and world, such as at Chemours’ plant in Fayetteville, N.C., and Daikin’s PFAS facility in Decatur, Ala. Despite state bans and significant market shifts away from PFAS, Chemours has proposed to expand its PFAS manufacturing in North Carolina. Meanwhile, 3M recently announced a global phase-out of PFAS production.
In response to REI’s announcement, the following statements were made: “We are so pleased that REI has finally listened to its members. No one’s drinking water should be polluted for a raincoat,” said Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “Our national campaign efforts helped make all the difference. REI’s commitment will have nationwide impacts by protecting more people from toxic chemicals and by driving ripple effects in the marketplace. REI must take the next step and work with its brand partners to ensure the substitutes are truly safer for people and the planet. And, other retailers, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, must quickly follow suit.”
“REI’s action sends a clear signal to all apparel companies that PFAS are just too dangerous to be used on our clothing,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future. “With this decision, this sustainability-minded company is getting out ahead of regulation. REI should make sure these persistent, toxic chemicals are replaced with safer solutions by requiring full ingredient disclosure and assessment for hazards. We are proud that our hometown co-op is leading the way, and look forward to working with REI to set a new bar for safety.”
“This moment has been years in the making,” said Cindy Luppi, New England Clean Water Action director and Safer States Steering Committee member. “Thousands of grassroots voices and REI members, as well as state legislatures across the country, have called for leadership in replacing PFAS with safer alternatives. We thank REI for showing how feasible this step is and hope it encourages many more to step up and better protect our health from ‘forever chemicals.’”
“Prayers have been answered that the forever chemicals will no longer be used by REI and its suppliers for clothing and other textiles,” said Brenda Hampton, founder of Concerned Citizens of WMEL Water Authority, a grassroots organization working to clean up PFAS drinking water contamination from Daikin and 3M around Decatur, Ala.
“Living well outdoors should never come with a dose of toxic chemicals, or at the expense of someone else, “ said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear, a grassroots organization working to restore and protect the air, soil, water, and food supply from PFAS contamination near Chemours in N.C. “Communities like mine deserve protection from continued PFAS exposures. Thank you, REI, for living up to your values, listening to your customers, and demanding a market shift.”
Posted: February 22, 2023
Source: Toxic-Free Future