New Greenpeace Study Reveals Garments are Off-gassing

Image: Unsplash, via Pixabay

By Staff | News
Posted Jul 13, 2016

If you have read the Magnifeco book, you know it stresses reducing the chemical load in your clothing for myriad reasons: your health (chemicals rubbing against your skin), the environment (depending on methods of production chemicals also contaminate water systems and emit toxins into the environment) and for the health of the workers making the garments. The issue we didn’t touch on, because there wasn’t enough evidence to substantiate, is the risk of the air quality in your home due to the chemical load of your clothing and off-gassing.

Today, Greenpeace starts the conversation with their research that reveals air tests in stores of global outdoor brands, Mammut, The North Face, Norrona and Haglöfs, show concentrations of volatile PFCs (hazardous and persistent chemicals that evaporate into the air), are up to 60 times higher in these stores than in an average enclosed room, and up to 1,000 times higher than in outside air. This builds on their previous reports ‘Footprints in the Snow‘ (which revealed the presence of environmentally hazardous per and poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in remote snow caps) and ‘Leaving Traces‘ (which tested outdoor brands and reveled which brands were using PFCs).

For the latest report, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight‘, Greenpeace conducted air tests in stores in Taiwan and five European countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The highest PFC-concentrations were found in German stores of the Swiss outdoor brand Mammut, followed by Haglöfs store in Oslo, Norway.

High PFC-concentrations continue to raise health concerns among scientists. Studies show that exposure to volatile PFCs can be linked to increased levels of PFCs in the bloodstream. For example, the PFC substance known as 8:2FTOH can transform into a toxic carcinogen (PFOA) and remain in the body for years. Exposure to some PFCs has also been associated with adverse health effects in humans, including kidney and testicular cancers. *

“Tests show that toxic chemicals continue to taint the preferred gear of nature lovers,” said Mirjam Kopp, Greenpeace’s Detox Outdoor project lead. “The North Face, Mammut, Norrona and Salewa all claim to love and respect nature, but they are hiding behind strong brand names and making empty promises, while contributing to irreversible toxic pollution. We urge them to act quickly, sign a Detox commitment and switch to toxic-free production,” she added.

Upon the release of this report, two brands joined Greenpeace’s global Detox Outdoor campaign. Vaude in Germany and Rotauf in Switzerland announced that they will clean their production chains from all hazardous chemicals by 2020. Rotauf has already eliminated all PFCs and Vaude aims to do so by 2018. They join UK-based Paramo in committing to zero chemical discharge and transparent monitoring systems.

“Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of outdoor lovers brought the PFC problem to the attention of their favorite brands, challenging them to stop polluting the environment,” said Kopp. “Now the mountain is moving — some brands recognize the need to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their production chains and adopt existing, high-performance PFC-free alternatives,” she added.

Greenpeace has assessed outdoor brands on the basis of their public statements on PFCs. Their Brand Update ranks brands as ‘Detox Champions’, ‘Falling Short’ on their promises or entirely ‘Out of the Race’ in eliminating PFCs and addressing the environmental harm they continue to cause. In several cases, brands have publicly stated their support to eliminate PFCs from their gear by 2020, only to hide them in membranes, backpacks, shoes or sleeping bags. Some brands lack transparency or a proper monitoring system for chemicals in their production chains.

Interested in seeing brands move the needle on this issue? Contact your favorite brand and ask them when they will commit to eliminating PFCs. In the meantime,  ensure you are storing outdoor clothes in closets away from bedrooms and ventilating your home or apartment as often as possible.

*Several independent studies cited in the report raise concerns of the possible effects of high PFCs exposure on workers’ health. Greenpeace urges national health authorities to further investigate the impact of PFC exposure on human health

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