Teflon in Your Clothes?

How safe are your yoga pants?

If you’re like many savvy environmentalists, you’ve already ditched your nonstick pans and bake ware because they are coated with Teflon or PTFE (aka polytetrafluoroethylene), a chemical linked to seemingly endless health problems, including immune system disorders, testicular and kidney cancer, infertility, obesity, thyroid disease and early onset puberty. But did you know PTFE is also used in high performance sports clothes and wicking fabrics you probably own and frequently use?

Last night I sat next to a professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University (in case you’re wondering why, I am on the Purdue Engineering Advisory Board of my alma mater and we meet twice a year). Imagine my surprise when said professor, who is an advisor to the Olympics on engineering related matters, told me he recommended a ban on PTFE swimwear, mainly because poorer countries’ athletes cannot afford it and it unevens the “playing field”. I brought up the health issues of PTFE- it harms human health, contaminates the water, basically never breaks down in the environment, and is close to the private parts of young people! Ugggh, Teflon is everywhere!

If you think this type of swimwear is sold exclusively to Olympic athletes, guess again. I can still remember my teenage son showing me his very red, hairy armpits and asking for advice. We concluded his Adidas wicking shirt was the culprit so he threw it away (we struggled with how to dispose of it given its ubiquitous contamination issues) and the rash cleared. PTFE is probably in your Lululemon yoga pants, Nike shirts and any brand that touts performance or wicking technology.

So now what? Don’t stop exercising, start googling organic yoga pants! We at Sherwood Green Life plan to sell nontoxic athletic clothes on our website in 2019, but in the mean time, avoid buying new athletic wear unless it’s plain old cotton or polyester. Your shirt may be a little stickier, but that’s better than more PTFE in your bloodstream.

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