Outdoor clothing brands promise change after report on toxic residue

By Liu Dong Source:Global Times Published: 2012-11-3 0:50:25

Many outdoor clothing brands' products have been revealed to contain toxic perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and other hazardous substances, but some firms responded Friday that the chemicals post no risk to humans.

The findings, revealed by two independent laboratories commissioned by Greenpeace Germany Monday, showed that products from 14 well-known brands all contained PFCs. Ten of them were made in China.

"The outdoor clothing industry advertises its products featuring images of pristine nature. But the reality is that the harmful substances used by this industry are now to be found in the environment and in the blood of humans all over the world," said Manfred Santen of Greenpeace Germany in a news release.

The report said Jack Wolfskin, The North Face, Patagonia, Kaikkialla, and Marmot contain noticeable concentrations of toxic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Both the Mammut and VAUDE jackets also contain high concentrations of fluorotelomer alcohols, which can break down into PFOA.

Fluorine compounds are persistent and take many years to break down in the environment. Studies link PFOA exposure to reduced fertility, thyroid diseases and immune disorders. 

The Greenpeace test results for hormonally active nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and plasticizers (phthalates) also proved worrying. The highest concentration of NPEs was found in a child's rain jacket from Seven Summits. The highest value for phthalates was found in a child's poncho from Northland.   

Greenpeace has called on the outdoor clothing industry to ban PFCs from production and to further develop fluorine-free alternatives.

A staff member surnamed Zhang from The North Face China's Shanghai office told the Global Times that the company has been made aware of the issue and has launched an investigation of their products, saying no comments could be given before the results are released. 

Meanwhile, Jack Wolfskin and adidas told the Legal Daily that although they admitted their products contained PFOA, it posed no risk to humans due to its low content.

"We blame them not only for the toxic chemicals in these products, but also for the environmental pollution caused by using these chemicals in production, most of which takes place in Third World countries like China. These pollutants will eventually accumulate in human bodies through air, water and food and they are hard to eliminate," Li Yifang, director of the pollution control program of Greenpeace China, told the Global Times Friday.

Greenpeace published a report in July 2011 disclosing the serious water pollution caused by global clothing brands which manufacture their products in China. Seven industry giants including Nike, adidas, PUMA and Li-Ning responded by pledging that all their products would have zero discharge of hazard chemicals by 2020.

Wu Xiongying, a professor at the College of Textiles under Donghua University in Shanghai, told the Global Times Friday that although currently it is hard to completely avoid using PFCs in production, the firms are obliged to find harmless substitutes.  

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