Growing Number of Brands Selling Sports Bra, Shirts and Leggings with Harmful Chemicals, Warns Watchdog

A recent report by CNN revealed that various sports bras and sportswear products contain high levels of Bisphenol A (BPA), a compound used in the manufacture of specific types of plastic. BPA can cause adverse health effects such as asthma and cardiovascular disease. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a U.S. watchdog group, warned customers about BPA in exercise clothing in October. The group said leggings, shorts, and leggings were banned because tests found the clothing could expose the wearer to up to 40 times the safe limit for BPA based on standards set by the State of California.

CEH announced that it has sent legal notices to eight brands that manufacture sports bras and athletic shirts, including Athleta, Champion, Kohl’s, Nike, Patagonia leggings, Sweaty Betty sports bras, Adidas, Champion, and Nike shorts. The California-based CEH, which conducted the trial, is a nonprofit consumer advocacy group focused on exposing the presence of toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Prior to this, CEH told consumers in October that sports bras from Athleta, PINK, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, All in Motion, Nike, and FILA were tested for BPA over a six-month period. It had warned consumers that the wearer had been shown to be exposed to high exposure. The group also tested athletic shirts from brands such as The North Face, Brooks, Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance, and Reebok in October and found similar results. As per the watchdog, BPA only exists in polyester-based clothing containing spandex.

CEH sent a legal notice to both companies last year, giving them 60 days to work with the center to rectify the violation by filing a lawsuit in California state court. The group later announced it had filed a lawsuit against both companies in February. However, Athleta, Nike, Reebok, The North Face, and Victoria’s Secret (which owns PINK) did not comment to CNN at the time.

BPA (Bisphenol A) is found in many everyday items, from water bottles and canned foods to toys and flooring. In adults, BPA exposure is associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and erectile dysfunction. A 2020 study found that premature death was also associated with BPA exposure. BPA has also recently been linked to asthma in school-age girls. Kaya Alan Sugarman, director of CEH’s Illegal Toxic Threat Program, said people are exposed to BPA through ingestion, ingestion of food and drinking water from BPA-leached containers, or absorption through the skin. In a statement, he said, “Sports bras and exercise shirts can be worn once. It’s meant to be worn for hours on end, and you’re going to sweat, so it’s alarming to see such high levels of BPA in our clothing.”

CEH is suing under California’s Clean Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 but says the settlement has far-reaching implications. It reported that the group has asked more than 90 companies, including Walgreens and hosiery and sleepwear brand Hypnotic Hat, to reformulate their products to remove all bisphenols, including BPA. Some have already agreed to do so.

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