Investigation finds evidence of PFAS in workout and yoga pants

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One in four pairs of popular leggings and yoga pants tested have detectable levels of fluorine, an indicator of toxic PFAS, according to a new report from Mamavation.


Partnering with EHN.org, the environmental wellness blog and community Mamavation tested the activewear and found levels of fluorine ranging from 10 parts per million (ppm) up to 284 ppm in eight pairs of leggings and pants, out of 32 tested. EHN.org partially funded the testing and Pete Myers, chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, which publishes Environmental Health News, reviewed the findings.

Related: CoverGirl Sued For PFAS “Forever Chemicals” & False Advertising

While the testing doesn’t prove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are in the products, fluorine is a strong indicator of the “forever chemicals”— which have been linked to everything from cancer to birth defects to lower vaccine effectiveness.

8 brands with PFAS indicators 

The testing—done from the crotch area of the pants—was conducted by an EPA-certified lab and flagged any clothing that had more than 10 parts per million (ppm) fluorine.

The eight pairs that had PFAS indicators were:

  • Athleta Girl Chit Chat Shorts
  • Gaiam High Rise Waist Yoga Pants Performance Compression Workout Leggings
  • Knix Hightouch High Rise Leggings
  • Lululemon Align Highrise Pant
  • LulaRoe Leggings
  • Old Navy Athletic Pants Vuori Elevation Performance Black Camo Athletic Leggings
  • Yogalicious “Lux” High Waist Side Pocket Capri

PFAS exposure through clothes?

PFAS yoga pants

It is unclear what exposure to PFAS through clothing means for humans, however, previous lab research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that PFAS skin exposure poses similar health risks as ingesting the chemicals via food or water.

“While we know that PFAS can be absorbed through the skin we don’t have much information about how much would be transferred from activewear products. It’s unlikely to be zero, ” Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, told Mamavation.

Experts told Mamavation it’s likely the chemicals are in the clothing as a treatment for stain- and water-resistance or sweat wicking; or due to contamination from lubricants or cleaning chemicals used during manufacturing.

Toxics-free workout wear 

The good news? Well, 75% of the testing pants and leggings did not have any fluorine. Some of the fluorine-free brands that also have organic material include Groceries Apparel B12 Leggings, Mate The Label Organic Stretch Legging, and Pact Organic Go-To Pocket Legging.

Mamavation has multiple investigations on fluorine, looking at a suite of everyday products and foods.

Keep your eye on this space as EHN teams up with Mamavation in the next month for a three-part investigation on PFAS indicators in consumer goods—we’ll bring you bad actors, what brands to trust, and ways to have your voice your concern over contamination.

Read more about the investigation on Mamavation.com

Banner photo credit: Nenad Stojkovic/flickr