Your sleeping bag could be toxic
Toxic chemicals with potential health and environmental impacts are widely used in the manufacture of outdoor clothing and gear, according to a Greenpeace study released Monday.
The environmental activist group found traces of poly- and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in 36 of 40 products they tested, according to the report.
Chemicals such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are used to make moisture-wicking and water-repellent equipment including jackets, pants, sleeping bags, boots, and tents. The compounds help keep campers and hikers dry and dirt-free, but they are hazardous to the environment and human health, Greenpeace says. The chemicals also widely used in other common household items including nonstick cooking pans and fire-retardant foam.
"PFCs are chemical compounds that don't exist in nature," Mirjam Kopp, detox outdoor global project leader for Greenpeace, said in a statement. "Once released in the environment, many of them degrade very slowly and enter the food chain, making pollution almost irreversible."
In a previous report, Greenpeace said they found PFC traces in some of the most remote lakes on the planet and in dolphins and polar bears and well as in human blood.
Greenpeace tested products from outdoor brands that include North Face, Jack Wolfskin, Patagonia, Mammut, Norrona, and Salewa.
"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 the production chain," Kopp said. "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."
Patagonia and North Face have both pledged to replace products treated with long-chain PFCs (like PFOAs) with fluorocarbon-based treatments that break down quicker in the environment.
"This is a topic we have been working on urgently for several years, nothing to do with Greenpeace's campaign efforts frankly," Patagonia's director of communications said in an email.
The Ventura, Calif.-based company announced in a blog post that is has switched its outerwear treatments from long-chain (C8) fluorocarbon-based finishes to shorter-chain treatments (C6) that contain less potential toxicity over time to humans, wildlife and water. Patagonia's 2016 spring clothing line is C8-free, the company said.
"Patagonia's temporary solution, which is also being adopted by a number of manufacturers, is not good enough, but it's the best option we have found so far," the company wrote. "Meanwhile, we continue to actively research and develop DWR (Durable Water Repellent) chemistries that will afford high performance with less environmental impact."
The four products Greenpeace says tested PFC-free included two jackets -- one by Vaude and one from Jack Wolfskin -- a backpack by Haglöfs, and a pair of gloves from North Face.
"These results show that it is possible to produce jackets, backpacks and gloves with all the requirements without the use of PFCs investigated in this study," the Greenpeace report said.
Sleeping bags aren't the only everyday product that might be filled with dangerous toxins:
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