REI has tarnished its reputation as a company committed to sustainability by continuing to sell clothing, including for children, that contains PFAS. As an REI member, I am disheartened to see that not only do many REI products contain PFAS, but REI is failing to make meaningful progress to phase them out. REI recently earned an “F” grade for its PFAS phase-out policies.
PFAS are a broad class of toxic chemicals that scientists have tied to a wide range of health and environmental harms. As noted in a recently-released Massachusetts government report, just one subset of PFAS has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, suppressed immune responses to vaccines, and lower birth weight. Because PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” persist in the environment and human body for long periods of time, the best way to protect people and the environment is not to make or use them in the first place. Safer substitutes are available, and REI’s competitors are making meaningful commitments to stop using PFAS.
I have always enjoyed and appreciated shopping at REI. I bought my first REI jacket at the Seattle store in the 1970s. I was delighted when REI finally opened a store nearby my longtime St. Louis, Missouri home, and I frequently shopped there at sale (and other) times. I now live on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and rely on our groundwater well for drinking water. PFAS is a growing concern on Cape Cod, and I don’t want to be afraid to wash my REI gear for fear of contaminating our drinking water.
REI can and must do better. Phase out PFAS from all consumer products. I want to see REI address this issue at the upcoming member meeting, and make a strong commitment to a speedy phase-out of PFAS in all consumer products. Walk the walk of putting “purpose before profits and act in the long-term interests of our members and community.”
Maxine Lipeles currently serves as Chair on the Board of Directors for Clean Water Fund