Denmark will ban clothing with ‘forever chemicals’

Regulations take effect in 2026.
clothing on a rack

Certain oil, water, and stain repellents are associated with health issues. DepositPhotos

The Danish government is sending a message on PFAS, a class of artificial substances known as “forever chemicals,” as they don’t break down easily in nature.

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Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment said it plans to ban all clothes, shoes, and waterproofing agents that contain Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, citing myriad health risks linked to the oil, water, and stain repellents. Developed in the 1930s, PFAS became widely used in the ‘50s, appearing in everything from cars and carpets to food packaging and beauty products. Studies have linked PFAS to reproductive health problems, child developmental delays, cancers, and high cholesterol, per the EPA.

Denmark intends for its PFAS clothing ban to kick in on July 1, 2026, in order to offer businesses a “transition period,” the environmental regulator said in an April 25 announcement. The ban will encompass both imported and Danish-made clothing, but it won’t affect “professional” or “safety clothing.” Denmark had already banned PFAS in food packaging as of 2020.

“The proposal for a ban will be subject to consultation,” the Ministry said in a statement. “It will be possible for companies to register if there are special challenges that must be taken into account.”

PFAS’ are specifically common in clothing labeled as water- and stain-resistant, such as rain jackets and athletic wear. A 2022 report, from environmental advocacy group Toxic-Free Future, estimated that 72% of products with such labels contain PFAS. The same year, a study by the non-profit American Chemical Society found significant concentrations of the chemicals in childrens’ school uniforms, CBS reported.

Still commonly used globally, the chemicals persist in the environment, accumulating across the food chain. They are found today in fish, cattle, vegetables, and drinking water

[ Related: 8 new types of ‘forever chemicals’ found in river linked to US cancer cluster ]

In the US, the agency banned some PFAS from food packaging and introduced new PFAS-related tap water regulations earlier this month. At the time, the EPA said that limiting exposure would “prevent thousands of premature deaths, tens of thousands of serious illnesses, including certain cancers and liver and heart impacts in adults, and immune and developmental impacts to infants and children.” 

The EPA’s website states that “research is still ongoing to determine how different levels of exposure to different PFAS can lead to a variety of health effects.”

Other nations have moved to outlaw the chemicals. New Zealand will ban them from use in cosmetics as of 2026, and five European countries—Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden—introduced a proposal last year to eventually restrict the use of PFAS across the European Union.