Is Your Sports Bra Killing You? Greenpeace Report Targets Chemicals in Sportswear


According to the environmental nonprofit organization Greenpeace, your sports bra could be making you really sick. In a recent report released by the group, the organization detailed the health risks from sportswear products that often contain hundreds of harmful chemicals including dyes, solvents, and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make sportswear items water, grease and stain-proof.

These chemicals, Greenpeace says, have been linked to cancer, obesity and developmental issues in children. And what’s most concerning is just how rapidly the body can absorb these chemicals from the clothing through the friction and open pores caused by sweat, common conditions during workouts.

“The concentration that we find in clothing may not cause acute toxic problems for the wearer in the short term, but in the long term you never know,” Manfred Santen, toxics campaigner for Greenpeace International in Germany, told The Guardian. “Endocrine disruptors, for example, you don’t know what the impact of long term exposure is on human health.” 

According to the Guardian, Europe’s BEUC (the European Consumer Organization) tested soccer jersey for nine countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, The Netherlands and Ukraine) and found carcinogens and endocrine disruptors including lead in all samples.

Read more about the worst endocrine disruptors for your body

Greenpeace found hazardous chemicals in 2014 World Cup uniforms and fan merchandise. That led sportswear giant Adidas to make major changes to its sportswear production, such as eliminating PFCs, which have been connected to an increased cancer risk and low birth weight. The organization also found high levels of phthalates in the clothing—a class of chemicals linked to developmental and reproductive issues as well as cancer.

The European Union now has banned or severely restricted some common practices such as the use of azo dyes and plated nickel in sportswear items. But these practices are still allowed in the U.S. market. The Greenpeace report identifies more than 2,400 chemicals used in sportswear production, noting that ten percent pose serious human health risks and one percent of those are not regulated. 

Read more about whether you should wear organic clothing

Image: teammarche

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By Jill Ettinger| June 04, 2015
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a freelance journalist and marketing specialist primarily focused on the organic and natural industries, she bridges her love for changing the food system with her lifelong passion for writing and connecting people in their shared values. You can connect with Jill on Twitter and Instagram.

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