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A review of PFAS as a Chemical Class in the Textiles Sector - Policy Brief

For over a decade, under both SAICM and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the class of chemicals known as PFAS is gaining increasing international attention. Since 2009, chemicals in products have been identified as an Emerging Policy Issue and PFAS as an Issue of Concern by the SAICM. The textiles sector is currently considered in the SAICM context through the ‘Chemicals in Products Programme’, which focuses on four priority sectors: textiles, toys, building products and electronics. The activities concentrate on increasing the availability and access to information on chemical use throughout the product’s life cycle.

Furthermore, identifying PFAS as an issue of concern under SAICM has enhanced efforts on gathering and exchanging information on PFAS and supports the transition to safer alternatives. This work has been coordinated by the Global Perfluorinated Chemicals Group, which is supported by the OECD and the UNEP.

Applying the class approach to manage PFAS in the textile sector connects two important issues covered in the SAICM context. First, the textile sector is an appropriate choice given the environmental significance of the sector generally. Second, the quantity and the wide variety of PFAS uses within the sector also makes it a priority for PFAS action. The textile sector’s globally spread value chain, which includes companies of all sizes, can also provide significant lessons for capacity building and enabling conditions that can later extend to other sectors.

This policy brief examines the scientific, policy, and practical reasons for approaching PFAS as a class. It also identifies enabling conditions for advancing improved public health and environment protection in the textiles sector, for consideration by SAICM and other stakeholders.

This document was prepared as an in-kind-contribution under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) full sized project 9771: Global best practices on emerging chemical policy issues of concern under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).