Lifting the lid on Teflon in your child’s uniform

If you’ve read my post on Teflon (READ HERE TO GET UP TO SPEED about everywhere teflon makes it’s way into) then you’ll also know that DuPont the company who produces the technology were forced to get it out of their non stick coatings by 2015. While the material replacing it is still fraught with doubt by environmental scientists, it is a little bit of progress nonetheless.

So how is a company to make money without all those millions on non stick fry pans needing that coating anymore? Well, in business school they’ll teach you to look for new revenue streams that identify a customer pain point.

That pain point they’ve found? Parents and their hatred of laundry and stains. It’s nothing new and products have been playing to that pain point since television began broadcasting commercials in the 50s.

So, for DuPont, that additional revenue stream is your kids school pants and shorts. It seems tops and jumpers have come away unscathed.Get that non stick treatment for your kids’ clothes and you’ll never have to worry about those pesky stains, right?

school shorts teflon

Sadly, just as most things sold to us with the tag line of ‘we’re making life easier for you’, once you lift the lid on that convenience, there is a negative side.

The ‘cost’ is paid elsewhere. My top 3 reasons you don’t want your child’s clothes to be teflon treated

  1. Our skin is our largest organ and through heat, sweat and friction can and does absorb any chemicals from its surface.
  2. PFCs like Scotchgard and Teflon are now in the rogues gallery of toxic, extraordinarily persistent chemicals that contaminate human blood and wildlife the world over (over 90% of Americans are showing PFOA in our bloodstream). *source:
  3. Can cause irritation and eczema on skin contact (source. AllergySave)

Read more from a recent question about this very topic sent into the the recently.

This is not a ‘first world problem’. When these things end up in ecosystems around the planet, this is everyone’s problem.

So, if you’re reading this and thinking HOLY CRAP! Do not panic. I always say that it’s wasted energy to freak out about what we didn’t know yesterday. We can only act upon new knowledge with a new action. That action is to buy quality shorts and pants without the teflon treatment.

I found some from Country Road kids but they were very expensive, so I was also going to check out KMart and Target for options there, which I’m sure there will be.

I am currently trying to source the major global school uniform manufacturers to then mount a petition. Millions of kids at school means millions of these chemicals on skin and in our environment, increasing as time goes on. Craziness, right?

How do you feel about this?

To end on a positive, I was SO excited to learn our local public school’s back packs were made from recycled, pthalate free plastics. It’s so important when we learn the freaky stuff, to focus on the good stuff that’s growing and help it grow, too, by praising awesome work done.

And for a laugh? I had briefly explained why we weren’t going to be taking the shorts, and then at the end said no to the plastic bag and carried out the shirts and jumper in my arms,  I could pretty much tell everyone in the shop thought I was a loony.

Low Tox. Happy Us. Happy Planet.



Comments 19

  1. I know too well that feeling of everyone thinking you are a loony. What keeps you going in those moments Alexx? Do you explain yourself or just not say anything?
    So many times I have been questioned and I explain only to get a response of “I’m sure it’s safe, we can’t worry about everything, they just DON’T use anything nasty in it”…… aahhh! I try not to get into these conversations at all BUT it’s hard when you are DIRECTLY questioned, bit rude not to provide an answer!

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      I reply with a few years ago I found out that 80% of the chemicals in our food additives and every day items haven’t been tested in / on humans for safety… That made me rethink stuff and get curious. I’m working hard to choose stuff more in line with nature for me and for the planet because a lot of this stuff hurts our planet too… Just makes sense……. That’s my usual spiel! x

  2. Keep being loony Alexx!!! 🙂 And the Northern winters here have piqued my interest in clothing and fibres. I have ben trying to find mainly wool and cashmere jumpers and tops, and have had some real success with this awesome consignment chain that operates on the East Coast of the US. I would say 75% of the time I have come out with an item(s) that is still in awesome condition and toasty warm without needing chemicals – for much less than it originally would have been.

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  3. Dear Alex,

    I have been following your articles and found that they are full of great ideas. Whenever I read something from you, I absolutely admire how much great knowledge and wisdom in them. Honestly you make a big difference in our life. And this article about uniform made by teflon material, confirmed me that I need to get a quality clothes for school. For my Son, I was about to go and grab a uniform from school which made of polycotton and polyester. I now thinking to go and check country road or search for a better quality.

    To me; you are one of the best who serves humanity and make a great difference in our lives…

    Sincerely; thank you very much.

    Best regards,

    Hatice Ozdemir

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  4. Alexx! Oh my goodness! From one Alexx/Aleks to another, I have stumbled so happily across your Facebook page and now website and LOVE IT! I myself had a surprise little bundle of joy a couple of years ago and with the ‘spare time’ of mat leave (haaaaa) designed and released a line of healthy fabric sleepwear that turns into daywear. I’ve literally just read your teflon blog and totally wish we could get this message to everyone as pronto as possible! My range is silk and very anti-mass production, anti-chemically treated ‘bargain’ ‘efficient’ fabrics. Pleeeeease have a look – would love your opinion 🙂 xxx

    1. Faaarrrr out and just read your story! I think we were separated at birth!! By the way, our name means ‘helper of mankind’ which you probably already knew but explains why we have this passion to save the world ! 🙂

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      Thanks Aleks – Not sure why I didn’t see this comment back when you made it… Your site looks lovely. Congrats

  5. Hi Alexx,

    I realise that this thread is a few years old, but I was wondering if you were able to find a school uniform supplier that doesn’t use Teflon? Many of the kids at the primary school suck on their clothing, and that cannot be good.

    1. I’m looking for the same thing! Most major retailers like Best & Less, KMart and Target are palming off coated uniforms. I found a wholesale distributor LW Reid with polo shirts that I have been told over the phone are uncoated.

  6. Hi Alex,
    we met briefly at the end of a “What to Eat” program with Georgia in 2013 I think. Anyways, I now have a child starting school (homeschooling previously and a year in Canada with no uniforms) and just went to get the uniform and was shocked. In addition to the Teflon there is nothing 100% cotton other than the hat and socks. I’ve been directed to check out Target, Kmart, Best and Less and Big W for generic uniform items but a quick internet search shows they are all polyester blends too! I am looking for boys polos in school colour, shorts, and less urgently pants and long sleeve tops. Any tips of where to look? It sounds like your uniform tops are cotton? Could you tell me the label and I could try and source direct? My online search only turned up polyester uniform tops as well…..

    When I told my 6 year old of my concern about the uniform being polyester he (totally unprompted by me) said “but mom, that is kind of weird, the school makes you wear clothes that hurt Mother Earth but then they say that taking care of the environment is one of the school values?!”

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      Hey Janneke.

      Yes unfortunately school uniforms are seriously unsustainable. I do get 100% cotton shorts / pants from target. They’re the ‘cino’ ones not school uniform ones… The only synthetic material in those is the elastic, encased in the waist, so at least it doesn’t shed microplastics… Organic socks from blessed earth and then I ‘go with the flow’ on the school polo front because there’s no alternative. Your son is absolutely right re the irony of it all x

      1. Thank you for your speedy reply Alexx, I will start looking for passable shorts and pants. As well I have found that Cotton On has white polo’s which our school will accept so will get those too.
        In warmth,

  7. What do you do when you can only buy the winter shirt at the uniform shop and it’s been Teflon treated? Am I better off buying a second hand one instead? Does this stuff wash off? The kids are not allowed to wear any generic uniforms, they are very strict on this. I think I’ll take it back regardless…

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      Hey Jo – it’s a tough one. It never breaks down, but yes second hand at least does give you less manufacturing chemicals in the clothes so it’s better on that front -plus on the landfill front! x

  8. I buy school uniforms from the UK, they have more organic cotton choices that are not treated with Teflon. Not ideal with the carbon footprint but since the kids wear it for hours almost every day …. sigh, shrug

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      Given the majority of a product’s carbon lies with the raw material before it’s left the farm gate – I reckon you’re ok on organic here. Which brand? x

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