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Chemicals in outdoor kit

The North Face, Patagonia and Mammut among brands accused of using hazardous chemicals in outdoor clothes
Chemicals in outdoor kit Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Hazardous and persistent chemicals, dangerous to human health and the environment, have been found in the products of leading outdoor brands.

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Claims vs truth

Brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Mammut, Columbia and Haglofs keep using PFCs to make their gear waterproof despite their claims around sustainability and a love for Nature, a new Greenpeace report has revealed.

The report, Leaving Traces: the Hidden Hazardous Chemicals in Outdoor Gear was presented today at a press conference at ISPO Munich, the biggest outdoor trade show in Europe.

PFCs in outdoor kit

Greenpeace tested 40 products purchased in 19 different countries and regions. Hazardous PFCs were not only found in clothing but also in shoes, tents, backpacks, ropes and even in sleeping bags. In only four items were no PFCs detected.

While most of the brands tested claim publicly that they are no longer using the most hazardous long-chain PFCs, they were still found in high concentrations in 18 items.

‘We found high levels of PFOA, a long-chain PFC that is linked to a number of health effects, including cancer, in some products from The North Face and Mammut. This substance is already restricted in Norway. These are disappointing results for outdoor lovers who want their clothes to be as sustainable and clean as the places they explore.’

Mirjam Kopp, Detox Outdoor project leader

Polluting the food chain

PFCs are chemical compounds that don’t exist in Nature. Once released into the environment, many of them degrade very slowly and enter the food chain, making pollution almost irreversible.

They have been found in very remote areas of the planet, in animals like dolphins and in polar bears’ livers and even in human blood.

‘Brands like The North Face and Mammut are not walking their talk of love and respect for Nature when it comes to the chemicals they use in their production chain. Together with the outdoor community, we challenge them to show us what true leadership and respect for Nature means: stop using hazardous chemicals and detox their gear now.’

Mirjam Kopp, Detox Outdoor project leader

Avoiding PFCs

In recent years, many outdoor brands have started switching from long-chain to short-chain PFCs, claiming that these are better alternatives. But recently, more than 200 scientists from 38 countries signed the ‘Madrid statement,’ which recommends avoiding the use of PFCs – including short chain – for the production of consumer products, including textiles.

While major outdoor brands are still highly dependent on hazardous chemicals, UK brand Páramo Directional Clothing today announced its commitment to Detox.

Páramo is the first brand in the outdoor sector that has already eliminated PFC from its entire production chain, showing that high-performance PFCs-free gear is possible and setting the highest standard within the sector.

Now Páramo has committed to further eradicate hazardous chemicals from its production chain. The UK brand joins 34 international fashion and sports brands already committed to Detox.

‘We are convinced that the outdoor community really has the leverage to be a game-changer in the industry and we are calling on the brands to accept the challenge to detox that their customers are asking for.’

Mirjam Kopp, Detox Outdoor project leader

Click here to find out more about the Detox Outdoor campaign.

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