Greenpeace finds unsafe chemicals in outdoor gear

29 Jan '16
3 min read

In its latest investigation on a range of outdoor gear for hazardous per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), Greenpeace has found that not only outdoor clothing and footwear but also camping and hiking equipment such as backpacks, tents and sleeping bags contain chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and to human health.

A product testing investigation conducted on items produced and sold by popular outdoor brands, found that out of the 40 products that were tested, only four were found to be free from the per- and polyfluorinated chemicals that were investigated, to the detection levels used.

“In 18 items we found high concentrations of the more hazardous long-chain PFCs, even though most of the brands tested claim publicly that they are no longer using them. We also found PFOA – a long-chain PFC that is linked to a number of health effects, including cancer – in some products by The North Face and Mammut,” said Mirjam Kopp, Detox Outdoor Global Project Lead for Greenpeace in Switzerland.

These brands are not walking their talk of love and appreciation for the environment when it comes to the chemicals they use in their production chains, Kopp alleged on his blog after the results of the independent investigation were made public.

He appealed to the outdoor brands to stop using hazardous chemicals in the manufacture of outdoor gear as they degrade very slowly in the environment and had entered food chains causing an irreversible impact of pollution. “We have found them in very remote areas of the planet, and they have already been detected in animals like dolphins, in polar bears' livers and even in human blood,” Kopp wrote in the blog drawing attention to the first findings on this topic in September, 2015.

The study, according to a Greenpeace press release, showed that hazardous chemicals, especially substances such as PFOA and other long chain ionic PFCs, are still being widely used for products sold by outdoor brands. At the same time the tests show a shift in the type of PFCs being used towards short chain PFCs – chemicals that are also persistent but less well researched in some aspects.

The investigation also showed that volatile PFCs such as long and short chain FTOHs (fluoro telomer alcohols) are used in high concentrations, leading to considerably higher extractable concentrations in many final products.

It is the first time that a Greenpeace product testing investigation was designed with public participation, said Kopp adding that more than 30,000 votes were received on the Detox Outdoor website from outdoor lovers around the world, of which the 40 most voted were sent to an independent laboratory for testing.

Meanwhile, British brand Páramo Directional Clothing joined 34 international fashion and sports brands to announce its commitment to Detox. Páramo is the first brand in the outdoor sector which has already eliminated PFC from its entire production chain, showing that high-performance PFC-free gear is possible, and setting the highest standard within the sector. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk - India

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