Pressure is mounting on the nation’s popular outdoor retailer REI to lead the outdoor apparel industry in a bold transition away from PFAS, the forever chemicals.
Over the last two months, more than 60,000 REI members and customers have signed petitions and sent emails to REI CEO Eric Artz and the company’s Board of Directors calling for it to “opt out” of PFAS.
They are not alone. Hundreds of REI customers made calls to the company urging it to act and last month, a group of more than 100 local, state, and national organizations sent the company a letter urging the company to ban PFAS, including some of the nation’s most prominent environmental and consumer advocacy organizations.
Meanwhile, hundreds of consumers have shared photos on social media calling on REI to act:
REI’s toxic trail of pollution
Here’s why this matters. The production, use, and disposal of PFAS to make snow gear, raincoats, and other products contaminate wild places, from the Arctic and Mount Everest to frontline communities in states such as Alabama, North Carolina, and West Virginia.
And that’s not all. Last week, a PFAS chemical company was fined by OSHA after two workers were killed due to exposure to chemicals used to make PFAS. And last May, a peer-reviewed study we co-authored found that women’s breast milk is contaminated with PFAS—chemicals shed by products like raingear sold at REI. All of the women tested live in and around REI’s headquarters city of Seattle.
Selling snow and rain gear laden with chemicals that contaminate our bodies, communities, workers, and the planet is out of step with the company’s commitment to sustainability.
Safer solutions are within reach
We know that transitioning away from PFAS is not only the right thing to do, but it’s feasible. In fact, leading REI supplier Patagonia has a plan to ban PFAS in all of its apparel by 2024.
As we begin 2022, REI should adopt a new year’s resolution to aggressively clean up its supply chain and ban PFAS in all private-label and brand-name products carried in its stores. That’s a resolution REI members and customers are clamoring for.