"Leave only footprints" may be the outdoor industry ethos, but Greenpeace says a study it recently conducted revealed troubling indications that the apparel made for outdoor recreation contains persistent chemicals, some of which are linked to negative health effects in both humans and animals.
For the study, Greenpeace commissioned two independent labs to analyze the waterproofing membranes applied to 14 different jackets and pants, which the organization purchased from a wide range of manufacturers, including The North Face, Marmot, Patagonia, and a number of companies popular in Europe, including Mammut and Jack Wolfskin. Greenpeace says the report highlights the need to ban PFCs from textile manufacturing.
The report focuses on perfluorochemicals (PFCs), a family of man-made compounds that are used in a range of industries. In outdoor clothing, PFCs are used in the manufacture of waterproof membranes and some types of PFCs have recently been regulated or are coming under regulation in some countries. The study found PFCs, in varying quantities, in all 14 samples. Also found were other chemicals that are known precursors to PFCs, and which are highly volatile, meaning they could convert to PFCs in the atmosphere.
Traces of PFCs are found around the globe—in us, in wildlife, and deep in the oceans. "We all carry parts-per-billion of some types of PFCs in our blood," says Craig Butt, a post-doctoral research fellow at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. Some are widely suspected endocrine (hormonal) system disruptors and are linked to fertility problems.