Days after a nonprofit consumer advocacy group sent legal notices to more than a dozen leading athletic brands after testing showed some of their apparel could expose wearers to potentially harmful levels of the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, the majority of the companies remained silent.
The Center for Environmental Health notified Athleta, Pink, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, All in Motion, Nike and Fila that testing in the past six months indicated that some of their sports bras had as much as 22 times the safe level of BPA, based on California standards. The chemical compound can be found in plastics and can lead to such health conditions as asthma and cardiovascular disease. BPA mimics estrogen and can disrupt the body’s metabolism, growth and development and reproduction.
The CEH’s research — all of which was done in the past six months — also determined that shirts made by The North Face, Brooks, Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance and Reebok came under question.
Executives at Athleta, New Balance, the Target-owned All in Motion and Nike did not acknowledge requests for comment. Representatives at Mizuno and Victoria’s Secret, which owns Pink, acknowledged media requests but did not respond. A Reebok spokeswoman declined comment Tuesday.
Emily DiFrisco, CEH’s director of communications, declined to say if any of the brands in question have acknowledged the claims or responded to the organization in any way. “We are in active litigation with these brands, so there is not much more we can share at this time, but we will share more details as we can,” she said via email.
Neither the CEH nor representatives at the athletic companies that responded to media requests pinpointed how many styles fall under the products in question. They also declined to say whether sales had been suspended for those items.
Noting that the CEH’s investigations have thus far only found BPA in polyester-based clothing with spandex, DiFrisco said the organization wants brands to remove all bisphenols including BPA from their products, she said. Meanwhile, any consumers who wear polyester and spandex activewear are being advised to limit the time they wear such items and to change out of them post-workout.
The brands have 60 days to work with CEH to remedy the violations before CEH files a complaint in California state court.
Most chemicals used commercially have not been tested for safety, according to a December 2016 opinion piece by Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It could take the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decades to review the more than 80,000 chemicals on the market. In addition, about 2,000 are added annually.
A few of the other athletic companies declined to discuss the claims, but a few provided statements. A Fila spokeswoman said, “Fila cares deeply about the quality of our products,” adding that the company is reviewing the CEH’s notice and is assessing the matter accordingly.
The North Face, a VF Corp.-owned entity, is investigating the allegations. A North Face spokesperson cited its “commitment to product safety is uncompromising, as is our compliance with all local, state and national laws regarding product safety.”
A Brooks spokesperson provided the following statement: “The safety of our customers and community is our highest priority. We have stringent testing requirements and high standards for all materials in our products. BPA is a banned substance in the Brooks Restricted Substance List. Our practice is to only use materials that are either Oeko-Tex 100 Standard certified or Bluesign approved, which demonstrates compliance with our RSL, or materials that are certified as compliant with our RSL by an independent third party. We have no reason to believe any of our products do not meet any health/safety standards, but out of an abundance of caution, we are working urgently to investigate these claims.”
A Mizuno USA spokeswoman also singled out customers’ health and safety as the company’s top priority and noted that BPA is a restricted substance in the Mizuno Restricted Substance List. She said, “We are aware of the notice published by Center for Environmental Health and working to investigate the allegations.”