How is the outdoor industry approaching the problem of PFCs and the challenges from Greenpeace?
In 2012, in Chemistry for Any Weather, Greenpeace challenged the outdoor industry to clean up and called for a ban on the the use of damaging perfluorinated compounds in waterproofing processes. Their new report, Footprints in the Snow, suggests there is a link between the PFCs in mountain areas and lakes and those in mountain jackets and footwear. The suggestion is that traces of the chemicals the outdoor industry has turned to as alternative to PFCs – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOCs), are to be found in mountainous regions. There is no question that PFCs are nasty chemicals, which are harmful to the environment and bring significant dangers to human health. According to Mammut, ‘the campaign group knows the chemicals have not necessarily come from outdoor apparel but says it is targeting the outdoor industry first in a new anti-PFC campaign, because it wants outdoor brands to lead the way in bringing non-PFC alternatives to market. (WSA:November-December,2015,36) Research by Stefan Possner research analyst at SWEREA, based on a study of 3,000 PFOCs, confirms that it is highly unlikely that apparel and footwear are a significant cause of such contamination.
This set us thinking. We are currently writing a chapter for our book/training system Keeping Dry Staying Warm on Durable Water Repellent (DWR), beading and capillary action. This lies at the core of the functionality of outdoor garment layering systems and of course the chapter covers PFCs.
Far from dragging its feet, the outdoor industry is ahead of other, larger PFC users in identifying and implementing ways of waterproofing that are not reliant on PFCs. My information from the Spring 2015 edition of USA publication, ‘Inside Outdoor’ is that production of PFOC’s was agreed voluntarily to cease by end 2015 and that the major chemical producers had already done this, though this does not yet apply to their customers ie fabric/garment brands. In addition, the EU has been pursuing a consultation on chemicals in textile that damaging to human health which ends in January 2016. Looking forward, Greenpeace originally applied a test to fabrics for presence of PFO’s so I assume this can be repeated by another group with funding to re check.
Our research suggests that within 12 – 18 months considerable innovation will have taken place on garments in terms of waterproofing. This means that brands will be openly stating what they are NOT using and, just as important, what they ARE using. Some brands right now are saying we are PFOC free but not releasing just what is being used. We suspect that within 2 years there will be several different new methods of achieving DWR performance, all being communicated by brand marketing people. We have a section within our training book called ‘emerging technologies’ and this will keep you up to date with what is happening.
We Outdoor Gear Coach are entirely independent and self funded. We are endorsed by the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) We are working with Guides and MTA to gain acceptance as CPD training. Keeping Dry and Staying Warm is available for different levels knowledge and experience. We are including a section on sustainability within each chapter (not for level 1 readers but at a level 2) and our final chapter brings it all together. We are partnering with www.Greenroomvoice.com who have a ‘transparency tool system for rating the position and progress of brands. quote
‘Our Transparency Tool is a powerful way to determine the ecological performance of a brand, it’s commitment towards responsibility and its products including their supply chain.
Bicycle Outdoor and Snow Sports Newsletter, September 2015
Stefan Possner, Polyfluorinated Chemicals and Transformation Products
Volume 17 of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry, 2011 pp 25-39
‘Why Greenpeace targets outdoor brands’ WSA, November-December 2015,36-37.