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Case Study: PFAS in Carpeting

Research + Partners + Communications = Change

RESEARCH: Conduct policy-relevant, peer-reviewed research

In 2017, our Institute analyzed the peer-reviewed literature for the greatest sources of PFAS exposure. Several definitive studies pointed to PFAS-treated carpets as a major source of exposure, particularly for babies and children. We were also concerned by EPA research showing that fluoropolymers used in carpets can slowly release PFAS into the environment.

PARTNERS: Reach out to policymakers and strategic outreach partners

  • We worked with from Google, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, Facebook, the City of San Francisco, Harvard and other large institutional purchasers to use their purchasing power to ask for PFAS-free carpeting from their suppliers.
  • We invited the major carpet mills and the Carpet and Rug Institute to discuss the problem at our PFAS in carpeting information exchange workshop (described below).

COMMUNICATIONS: Conduct a strategic communications effort

In February 2018, we put on a one-day workshop for the carpet industry to educate them about the PFAS problem and brainstorm solutions. More than a dozen high-level representatives from major carpet manufacturers (Interface, Mohawk, Milliken & Co., Tarkett, Shaw, etc.) attended the workshop, along with large purchasers, academic and government scientists, NGOs and companies who had successfully phased out PFAS. Participants’ carpet companies produced about 90% of the carpets and rugs sold in the US.

Results:

  • The carpet industry had recently shifted from C8 to C6 PFAS treatments and came into the workshop believing the chemical industry claim that C6 was not problematic.  After learning that C6 and likely the whole class of PFAS were also harmful during our workshop, the companies all agreed at the end of the day to phase out all PFAS including C6 and other short chains substitutes.
  • Several leading carpet manufacturers have told us our workshop and follow-up meetings were a catalyst for their moving away from all PFAS to better chemistries.
  • Manufacturers that have completely phased out PFAS include Engineered Floors, Interface, Shaw, and Tarkett.
  • As of January 2020, retailers The Home Depot and Lowe’s have stopped selling any carpets and rugs treated  with PFAS.
  • In March 2021, major carpet manufacturer Shaw Industries gave our Institute  a leadership award for our work supporting “the wellbeing of people and the planet amid the unprecedented challenges of 2020.”
  •  On July 1, 2021, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control, who had participated in our 2018 workshop, designated carpets and rugs containing PFAS as a Priority Product for regulation.