Producers of outdoor clothing are often seen as role models for sustainable and environmentally conscious production and take a leading role in terms of working and production conditions and the avoidance of harmful chemicals.1 Now, however, a study by Greenpeace shows that far-reaching improvements are necessary in this industry.
Greenpeace tested 40 products from famous brands such as North Face, Mammut or Haglöfs on per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). The result is sobering. In only 4 of the 40 items, which included clothing and camping equipment such as sleeping bags, were no harmful PFC residues found. In 11 of the investigated products, a high concentration of dangerous perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was found. What effect this chemical has on humans and the environment is shown in the case of DuPont in the United States. The case found that there were increased diseases in humans and animals that regularly resided in the vicinity of the factories belonging to the chemical company.2
PFC chemicals are used in the production of outdoor clothing as water protection, allowing impinging water to run off the materials. In nature, however, the PFC cannot be broken down, therefore reaching groundwater and also ending up in the food cycle. For humans, these chemicals can be carcinogenic, and thyroid disorders and immune disorders are associated with PFC.
Greenpeace recommends that when buying outdoor clothing not to rely solely on the reputation of the brand and also to check the make up of the product carefully. In addition, PFC-free alternatives are available, for example from textiles such as polyester and polyurethane.