Fabric manufacturers move to address PFAS chemical ban

At the July Casual Market, Casual News Now heard from several sources off the record that major retailers are calling on fabric manufacturers to address the presence of PFAS chemicals in outdoor fabrics as upcoming regulations may ban the chemical in several states. 

Short for perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, PFAS are man-made chemicals that are mostly used as stain repellents because of the strong bond between carbon and fluorine in them — a bond that is nearly unbreakable and makes the material it’s applied to persistent. 

Some performance fabrics, mainly used outdoors but also gaining popularity for indoor use, contain PFAS and their producers are looking at ways to reduce or eliminate the usage of PFAS over the next few years.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee most recently signed a bill into law that will phase out PFAS by 2025. Laws have also been passed and are going into effect in states like New York, Colorado and California over the next 3-5 years. 

David Swers, president and COO of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, says the company is closely monitoring the regulatory and legislative activity surrounding PFAS and recognizes the confusion recent announcements have caused throughout the industry. 

He also says the company’s global research and development team has been working in conjunction with outside experts — including accredited laboratories and universities — for several years to evaluate and develop the best alternatives. 

“As the situation continues to evolve, rest assured that Sunbrella fabrics will always meet or exceed regulatory standards, he says. “We understand the trade-offs versus expectations and will leverage this knowledge to make informed decisions on how to deliver the best possible product to our customers. In the meantime, our current inventory and orders are compliant, and our upholstery portfolio carries independent OEKO-TEX® and GREENGUARD Gold® certifications. Sunbrella fabrics are also REACH and Prop 65 compliant.

Swers explains that rather than relying on a topical finish, Sunbrella’s long-term performance is engineered into the fibers of the yarn, meaning the strength, cleanability and color the fabrics are known for will not be compromised by a change in finishing chemistry. 

Milliken & Company announced in a release last year that the company was planning to eliminate all PFAS-containing materials from its portfolio by December 31, 2022.

And Benji Bagwell, vice president of Decor in the Textile Business, explained that the company’s newly launched outdoor fabrics do not use PFAS.

Officials from both companies, in addition to a  slate of legal experts, regulatory officials, scientists and industry leaders, will address the issue at the AHFA Regulatory Summit, taking place Thursday in Colfax, North Carolina, at the Conference Center At Guilford Technical Community College.

The first session pertaining to PFAS and fabrics will be presented by Shawn Swearingen on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is lobbying at the state level in all or most of the locations where chemical regulations are in place or proposed, and Swearingen will answer questions about these regulations. 

On Thursday, Katelyn Goretzke, textile division compliance manager for Milliken & Company, will be presenting during the Supplier Presentation, “Anticipating a Sea of Change in Performance Fabrics.” 

In her short presentation, Goretzke will touch on a variety of PFAS-related topics including how PFAS is defined, legislations in play at both the state and federal levels and how those legislations will potentially affect the textile industry. She will also speak to Milliken’s decision to phase out PFAS chemistries from its textile business portfolio.

Valdese Weavers has dropped out of this panel, however, David Swers, President & COO, Glen Raven will also talk about the new marketing and reporting challenges the industry faces because of upcoming regulations.

While outright bans of fabric containing any PFAS do not kick in for a couple of years, there are reporting requirements in some states that will impact manufacturers in 2023 and 2024.

For more information about the AHFA Regulatory Summit, visit ahfa.us/event-template/2022-summit.

This story first appeared in sister publication Casual News Now.

Alex Milstein

Alex Milstein is a contributor and social media coordinator for Home News Now and editor in chief of Casual News Now. He previously served as senior editor of both Casual Living and Designers Today. Prior to that, Alex covered technology for Furniture Today, with a focus on augmented reality, e-commerce, and 3D visualization.

View all posts by Alex Milstein →

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