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SGS raises concerns over PFCs used to treat textile fabric
Oct '13
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a family of fluorine-containing chemicals with special properties to make materials oil, stain and water resistant. These fluoro-organic compounds are widely used as textile finishes on outdoor clothing, tents, sleeping bags, shoes, carpeting and furniture.

With their high performance as waterproof membranes, coatings, stain-resistant and water repellent finishes, this class of chemical substances is extensively used for outdoor products.

During the textile production process, PFCs are used in a variety of applications, especially throughout the outdoor industry as treatments for textiles to enhance water, stain and oil repellence, which is commonly known as a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. It is a process to apply an ultra-thin coating on a fabric in order to prevent or delay the ingress of water into the fabric.

However, concern has been raised over the last decade regarding the possible discharge of PFCs during the manufacturing process, especially chemicals such as PFOS and PFOA. These chemicals resist degradation, possess toxic properties and bioaccumulate in the food chain. PFCs are now regarded as an emerging class of environmental contaminants.

Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) in Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Processes

PFCs have long been known as a critical issue in outdoor products, where PFOS and PFOA are classified as hazardous chemicals and have been regulated in some countries.

Some outdoor clothing brands have started using shorter chain PFCs, such as the fluorotelomer alcohol (FTOH) and fluorotelomer acrylate (FTA), to provide similar DWR properties. These shorter chain PFCs used in DWR products are based on C8 technology.

- The common C8 DWR fabric is actually treated with 8:2 FTA chemicals.

- FTA is an intermediate in the production of fluorinated polymers like C8 telomers. It can be converted into PFOA through oxidation in the environment.

- FTOH is manufactured as an intermediate or as a by-product of synthesizing FTA.

- 8:2 FTOH may be metabolically converted into PFOA in a similar way as well – through oxidation.

According to recent research from a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) report, PFOA is not an ingredient in the waterproofing membranes, but a by-product from the production and may remain in the finished garment and enter the environment. Like PFOA, FTOH and FTA also persist in the membranes as by-products of the polymerization process.

About SGS Softlines Services

SGS Global Softlines has an extensive network of over 40 laboratories worldwide, with a strong team of committed professionals from multi-disciplinary backgrounds. The company’s internationally accredited state-of-the-art testing laboratories offer a comprehensive range of physical, chemical and functional testing services for materials, components and finished products, including flammability tests.


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