Hazardous chemicals present in most outdoor gear – study

© Kai Pfaffenbach
People who use weatherproof gear presumably enjoy spending time outdoors and respect the environment – but a new study from Greenpeace says that hazardous chemicals that are detrimental to animals and the environment are “widely present” in such products.

The study from the environmental group found that toxic chemicals are “still widely present in products by brands such as Jack Wolfskin, the North Face, Patagonia, Mammut, Norrona and Salewa.”

It went on to note that the chemicals are particularly found “in the production of footwear, trousers, sleeping bags and some jackets.”

A total of 40 products – 11 jackets, eight pants, seven pairs of shoes, eight backpacks, two tents, two sleeping bags, one climbing rope and one pair of gloves – were tested by an independent laboratory as part of the study.

Of those 40 items, only four products were free of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PFCs are used to add waterproof and dirt-repellent finishes to outdoor apparel, despite being harmful to the environment.

“Once released into the environment most PFCs break down very slowly. They can remain in the environment for many years after their release and are dispersed over the entire globe,” the report said.

The chemicals have been found in mountain lakes and snow, and can accumulate in the livers of Arctic polar bears and be detected in human blood, according to the report.

Greenpeace went on to state that PFCs “can cause adverse impacts… on the reproductive system and the immune system, as well as being potentially carcinogenic in animal tests.”

The environmental activist group urged outdoor apparel companies to join its 'Detox My Fashion' campaign, which is aimed at rapidly removing hazardous chemicals from the textiles industry.

"Phasing out PFCs by 2020, as some outdoor clothing brands aspire to do, is not ambitious enough," the group said.

"It is not acceptable that their products continue to release persistent and potentially hazardous chemicals into the environment for another five years."