Greenpeace finds toxic chemicals in most outdoor gear

From shoes to clothing, backpacks to sleeping bags: toxic chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and human health are present in most outdoor gear, according to a Greenpeace report. Only four out of 40 products tested were free of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).

The outdoor gear industry continues to use toxic chemicals in many of its products, some of which can accumulate in nature and remain for many years, the environmental activist group said on Monday.

The results of Greenpeace’s third outdoor product test are “disappointing to fans of outdoor apparel, who want their equipment to be clean and environmental friendly,” says Greenpeace chemical expert Manfred Santen. PFCs are used to make outdoor apparel waterproof and dirt-repellent.

11 of the 40 products tested even contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a known carcinogen. PFOA levels in a sleeping bag by The North Face were seven times higher than the permitted levels in Norway of 1 microgram per square metre.

“PFOA has no place in materials that could get in the mouths of children when camping, for instance,” warns Santen. A Mammut backpack, Jack Wolfskin pants and shoes from Haglöfs were also found to contain very high PFOA levels, according to Greenpeace.

Although pollutants from outdoor gear have been founded in secluded mountain lakes and snow, and even in the livers of Arctic polar bears, Greenpeace points out that the toxic chemicals cause the most harm to humans and the environment in the manufacturing countries. Consumers should therefore ask themselves if they really need the outdoor equipment, explains Santen.

The fact that four products did not contain any PFCs is proof that environmentally friendly alternatives made from polyester and polyurethane already exist and can be used without delay, adds the chemist.

The environmental group has been working since 2011 through its Detox My Fashion campaign to have hazardous chemicals removed from final products as well as the entire manufacturing supply chain of the textiles industry.

“Phasing out PFCs by 2020, as some outdoor clothing brands aspire to do, is not ambitious enough,” said Greenpeace. “It is not acceptable that their products continue to release persistent and potentially hazardous chemicals into the environment for another 5 years.”

 

Image credit: Tom Fahy, flickr/Creative Commons

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