Activewear Brands Sent Legal Notices Over Unsafe Levels of Carcinogenic BPA in Sportswear

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BPA, north face,
The North Face sports bras may have unsafe levels of BPAs. Credit The North Face

Last week the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) sent legal notices to eight brands of sports bras and six brands of athletic shirts after testing showed the clothing could expose individuals to up to 22 times the safe limit of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), according to California law.

The sports bra brands include Athleta, PINK, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, All in Motion, Nike, and FILA. The activewear shirt brands include The North Face, Brooks, Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance, and Reebok.

BPA, a well-studied hormone-disrupting chemical, mimics estrogen and can disrupt the body’s normal functioning, including metabolism, growth and development, and reproduction.

“People are exposed to BPA through ingestion (e.g., from eating food or drinking water from containers that have leached BPA) or by absorption through skin (e.g., from handling receipt paper). Studies have shown that BPA can be absorbed through skin and end up in the bloodstream after handling receipt paper for seconds or a few minutes at a time. Sports bras and athletic shirts are worn for hours at a time, and you are meant to sweat in them, so it is concerning to be finding such high levels of BPA in our clothing.”

– Kaya Allan Sugerman, Illegal Toxic Threats Program Director at CEH

CEH’s investigations have found BPA in polyester-based clothing with spandex, including socks made for infants. Over the past year, CEH has pushed more than 90 companies to reformulate their products to remove all bisphenols, including BPA, and some have already agreed.

“The problem with BPA is it can mimic hormones like estrogen and block other hormone receptors, altering the concentration of hormones in our bodies, and resulting in negative health effects. Even low levels of exposure during pregnancy have been associated with a variety of health problems in offspring. These problems include abnormal development of the mammary glands and ovaries that can increase the likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer later in life. These effects occur even at low levels of exposure like those seen in people today.”

– Dr. Jimena Díaz Leiva, Science Director at CEH

Defendants will have 60 days to work with CEH to remedy the violations before CEH files a complaint.

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