Gallery: Greenpeace Detects Toxic Chem...

eco-friendly outerwear, sustainable outerwear, Greenpeace, Germany, toxic chemicals, Patagonia, Jack Wolfskin, The North Face, Patagonia, Kaikkialla and Marmot, Mammut, Vaude, Northland, Seven Summits, Fjällräven, Adidas, Mountain Equipment, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, phthalates, PFCs

Photo by Shutterstock

Wide-open vistas are frequently used to advertise outdoor clothing, yet the toxins many weather-resistant fabrics contain may actually be detrimental to nature and our personal health, according to a new report from Greenpeace Germany. To determine the scope of the problem, the environmental nonprofit commissioned two independent laboratories to test 14 rain jackets and trousers for a spectrum of hazardous chemicals. Despite representation from a range of popular brands, including Patagonia, The North Face, Jack Wolfskin, and Fjällräven, the results were broadly—and dishearteningly—the same.

eco-friendly outerwear, sustainable outerwear, Greenpeace, Germany, toxic chemicals, Patagonia, Jack Wolfskin, The North Face, Patagonia, Kaikkialla and Marmot, Mammut, Vaude, Northland, Seven Summits, Fjällräven, Adidas, Mountain Equipment, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, phthalates, PFCs

Photo by Shutterstock

IRONY ALERT

Every piece of apparel tested positive for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a persistent hormone-disruptor used to produce Teflon and other chemicals, with the highest concentrations in products from Patagonia, The North Face, Jack Wolfskin, Kaikkialla and Marmot. Several jackets, notably those from Mammut and Vaude, also contained significant levels of fluorotelomer alcohols, which can break down into PFOA.

Germany is the largest market for outdoor clothing on the continent, with a turnover valued at more than 1 billion euros.

A child’s rain jacket from Seven Summits contained the highest level of nonylphenol ethoxylates, a textile surfactant that’s not only extremely toxic to aquatic organisms but also exhibits estrogenic properties. The highest value for phthalates, a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals used to increase the plasticity of a material, was found in a child’s poncho from Northland.

“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,” says Manfred Santen, an expert at Greenpeace Germany. The European nation is the largest market for outdoor clothing on the continent, with a turnover valued at more than 1 billion euros.

Greenpeace is calling on the outdoor-apparel industry to ban perfluorinated compounds (including PFOA), NPEs, and phthalates, which can contaminate drinking water, food, and ultimately human blood and breast milk.

Several leading retailers are already headed in that direction, with Marks & Spencer following H&M’s lead to phase out PFCs in the short term and eliminate all hazardous chemicals by 2020.

Healthier weatherproof alternatives are widely available, including membranes made from polyester or polyurethane. Such clothing, according to Greenpeace, are uncompromising in their ability to withstand wind, rain, and snow. In fact, products containing PFCs are superior to fluorine-free alternatives only with regard to oil-repellency.

“The industry has gone from being a specialist supplier to a producer of trendy everyday wear,” says Santen. “Consumers looking for waterproof clothing have the right to know what their rain gears contains and be able to make a choice. There are already several manufacturers offering fluorine-free alternatives.”

+ Chemistry for Any Weather

+ Greenpeace Germany

2 Responses to “Greenpeace Detects Toxic Chemicals in Popular Outerwear Brands”

  1. macdoodle says:

    is any of it safe now?
    what do we buy now?

  2. srkane says:

    In the olden days it was wool and fur. So that leaves wool, which is natural, non-toxic, it breathes, allowing the body to cool when it’s warm, and it insulates from the cold. If treated with Lanolin it can be slightly water-repellant too. Try a nice Irish or Icelandic knit…those northern sheep know how to keep warm, right?

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