Should Performance Outweigh PFC Concerns in Outerwear?

Sourcing Journal

For today’s consumer, clothes are not merely clothes. They wick away sweat, coddle us from the cold, and navigate us through both calms and tempests. From athletic wear to bedding to even lingerie, “performance” is king, even when some of the measures are more aspirational than practical. All that tactical-grade reinforcement doesn’t come without a cost, however. In the outdoor industry, chemicals are typically applied liberally to weatherproof fabrics, sometimes to the detriment of the environment they’re designed for.

In October 2012, Greenpeace Germany released “Chemistry in Any Weather,” the culmination of an investigation into the ubiquity of per- and polyfluorinated compounds, of PFCs, in major outdoor apparel brands.

After commissioning two independent laboratories to test 14 rain jackets and trousers by labels such as Fjällräven, Jack Wolfskin, Mammut, The North Face, and Patagonia, the environmental nonprofit discovered that every piece tested positive for perfluorooctanoic acid, a hormone-disrupting chemical once used to manufacture a swath of non-stick and stain-resistant wares, including Teflon pans, microwave-popcorn bags, and Gore-Tex boots.

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