January 7, 2024

BPA Toxin is In Your Clothes and Harms Your Health

BPA is a harmful toxin commonly found in athletic wear at levels above legal limits.

BPA Isn’t Just In Your Bottles, It’s In Your Clothes Too

BPA isn’t just in your bottles, it’s in your clothes too- and it might be more of a threat there.

What is BPA?

Enacted in November 1986, California’s Proposition 65 requires warning labels on goods that might expose a consumer to carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, chemicals. This proposition works to increase transparency to the public, advocating for the consumer’s right to know and understand their purchase. At least once a year, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) revises and republishes a list of unsafe chemicals, among them chemicals with the potential of inducing reproductive and developmental harm. As of April 2023, over 900 chemicals were identified in its annual toxicity report, including Bisphenol A (BPA). [1]

Commonly found in foods, beverage bottles, and storage containers, BPA can also be found in clothing like socks, sports bras, and  athleticwear. This indicates two paths of entry into the human body: ingestion (by mouth) or absorption (by skin). Once BPA is absorbed through the skin, the largest human organ, it travels into the bloodstream.

So, what happens when BPA makes contact with organs?

BPA is a hormone- and endocrine-disrupting chemical. As it travels through the blood, it deceives the body by acting like a hormone instead of a foreign agent. This confuses and disrupts the endocrine system which, with the nervous system, helps regulate important functions in our internal environment like mood, metabolism, cell growth, and reproduction. [2] In a 2015 medical study, it was not only observed that carbon-based synthetic compounds are hormone-mimicking but also interact with hormone-receptors that lead to changes in cell behavior, contributing to cancer development and progression. [3] The compounds found in materials such as polyester, spandex, and nylon are man-made unlike cotton and wool. [4]

Where is BPA most commonly found?

Based in Oakland, CA, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) studied 100 different athletic brands who exposed consumers to up to 31 times the legal limit of BPA under California law. It found that sports bras and shirts with the synthetic blends of polyester and spandex expose consumers to up to 22 times. [2] Socks made for babies, children and adults all contained high levels of the chemical BPA. Serious health risks from BPA overexposure include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility, ovarian and breast cancer, and more.

The following are 16 brands among the many affected by BPA:

  1. Adidas
  2. All in Motions
  3. Asics
  4. Athleta
  5. Champion
  6. Columbia
  7. FILA
  8. Forever 21
  9. Fruit of the Loom
  10. GAP
  11. Hanes
  12. New Balance
  13. Nike
  14. PINK
  15. Reebok
  16. The North Face

In addition to athleticwear, further research demonstrates these chemical materials are in professional uniforms for flight attendants and firefighters. [5]

Steps for your eco-wellness

The good news? The human body is on our side. As you minimize your contact with BPA, the liver can metabolize most of what is already in its system and excrete the chemical within a 24-hour period so it does not accumulate in the body. [6]

Read the fabric composition of a clothing item to check for polymer blends like polyester, spandex, and nylon. Look for clothing made mostly, if not completely, with natural fibers like cotton, wool, hemp, and others. These natural fibers are also renewable and are more environmentally sustainable.

Limit your exposure to BPA by removing your activewear and socks after your workout. Limit your contact with plastic and search for safer, BPA-free options like glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.

Say ‘No, thank you’ to receipts. BPA coats receipt paper and can transfer to your wallet, currency, purse or pant pocket. Do not allow children to play with receipts in their hand or in their mouth. As a service industry worker, make sure to wash your hands often and/or wear gloves as opposed to using hand sanitizer, which increases absorption into the skin.

And as always, bring a reusable bag when shopping.

Sign CEH’s petition to tell Fashion CEOs to take BPA out of Socks.