Robert Boesch
 

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PFC

Quality and safety for our customers and producers

Mammut does not simply want to offer the best outdoor and mountain sport products to its customers, but also to leave the best possible ecological footprint. This is a result of our own convictions, not just because it is a market requirement! At the same time, the goal is to have realistic opportunities and long-term, comprehensive solutions. Together with bluesign technologies, we work towards the fastest possible elimination of PFOA and are looking for real alternatives.

Mammut places the highest demands on the quality, functionality and safety of its products. Customers can rely on their Mammut equipment in any situation, whether out on the ice or on the rock face. Mammut places the same demands on the value chain. The manufacturing process must meet high quality and safety requirements and be safe for humans and nature.

Mammut is conscious of the problems regarding PFOA. These relate to trace contaminants in certain PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals). The latter are used in the textile industry predominantly on account of their water-, oil- and dirt-repellent properties. As a result, materials treated with PFC contribute to the high performance of functional textile products used in mountain sports. There are concerns about the accumulation of the substances in the environment from waste products and waste water, and thereby also potentially via the food chain into the human body. Unfortunately they are barely biologically degradable.

Mammut wants the insert materials used in the manufacture of functional clothing to be free from PFOA trace contaminants by 2015. Some significant steps have already been made towards this goal: in January 2011, Mammut became a system partner of bluesign technologies and as such committed itself to implement the stringent bluesign® standard. These regulate all relevant impurities occurring in PFCs with strict, low limits.

However, the major challenge is the fact that the alternative substances and methods of treatment available on the market today cannot yet generate product properties with comparable performance. The objective is therefore to develop viable alternatives from an ecological and functional perspective. Together with bluesign technologies, as well as other producers in the outdoor sport sector, specialists, material producers, textile finishers and the textile chemicals industry, Mammut is working to develop new technologies.

For more information please contact us at csr@mammut.ch


Questions & Answers

Why does Greenpeace view PFCs as problematic?

There is no acute risk to health for wearers of functional jackets since, according to the current state of knowledge, the substances cannot transfer through the skin to the human body.

However, some PFCs can break down to form so-called long-chain perfluorinated chemicals such as PFOA. Among other factors, these chemicals are persistent, bioaccumulative and have toxicological properties. The risk is primarily of these substances getting into waste water - during the production process or when a product is washed - and accumulating in nature and the food chain.

These chemical groups are therefore a priority for us and we are already taking steps to address this issue. Mammut has set itself the target of eliminating, by 2015, these long-chain PFC textile finishes which can break down into PFOA.

Why are there PFCs in a Mammut jacket?

For mountaineers and outdoor sports enthusiasts, a key requirement for functional clothing is that it stays dry and comfortable in difficult conditions. Out in the mountains, this is relevant in terms of safety and can even be lifesaving. Unfortunately, none of the PFC-free alternatives currently available achieve the same high levels of functionality and durability.

What measures has Mammut introduced?

As a responsible company, Mammut has committed to high standards of safety for consumers, the environment and its workforce. As part of this commitment, we are a member of bluesign technologies, operate a “Restricted Substances List” (RSL) and have an internal supply chain monitoring system.

On the day the study was published, we attended a round table meeting with Greenpeace and many representatives of other brands to work towards finding solutions. This problem cannot be solved by Mammut on its own, or by individual manufacturers. We are therefore working actively at an industry level and with non-governmental organizations and chemical suppliers to identify alternatives.

What commitments has Mammut undertaken and what is Mammut’s position in relation to the DETOX campaign?

We have committed to completely eliminating PFOA and critical long-chain perfluorinated chemicals by 2015. However, we are aware that this is simply a first step towards the long-term aim of eliminating perfluorinated chemicals. Still, since we currently do not know of any alternative that meets our high requirements, and there are still too many unanswered questions in this area, at the moment we are not in a position to completely meet Greenpeace's maximum requirement.

As a business, how do we account for using these chemicals?

Mammut aims to offer the best outdoor and mountain sports products to its customers, while leaving behind the best possible ecological footprint. Until now, only PFC-based textile finishes have been capable of achieving the required level of functionality for this application. In addition, there is a lack of independent scientific studies proving that the alternatives available on the market are in fact more environmentally friendly than PFCs.

We are endeavoring to find real alternatives. However, in this case the main onus is on the chemicals industry. In this respect, we welcome Greenpeace's DETOX campaign and hope that it will lead to chemicals manufacturers introducing more environmentally friendly alternatives offering equally good functionality.

Is Mammut considering a product recall?

No, because according to the current state of knowledge, there is no risk to either health or safety for wearers of functional clothing. There is therefore no cause for a product recall. The Mammut jackets tested by Greenpeace outperformed all legally specified threshold values.

What are “PFCs”?

PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) are a class of chemical substances and are part of the wider family of fluorinated chemicals. They encompass a wide range of chemical substances with different compositions and effects on the environment.

How many chemicals are used in the textile and clothing industry?

The textile and clothing industry is very reliant on chemicals: chemical substances are present in each of our clothing sectors (not just outdoor clothing). These are required to color the textiles and give the garments the required functionality.

Around 25% of the chemicals produced in the world are used directly or indirectly in the textile and clothing industry. This represents more than 6,000 different substances. The PFCs criticized by Greenpeace are used to achieve the desired resistance to water, dirt and oil.

Are there no statutory regulations on PFCs or PFOA?

No. To date, there are no legal requirements or threshold values for PFCs or PFOA. The situation is different for PFOS: This is another trace contaminant that can be formed from long-chain perfluorinated chemicals. In line with European legislation, PFOS is already highly restricted (threshold value of 1 μg/m2) and has already vanished from clothing production.

What happens if these substances get into the human body?

Studies prove that so-called long-chain perfluorinated chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS are persistent and bioaccumulative, and also have toxicological properties. The latest Greenpeace studies also point out that these substances can occur not only in production but also at home in waste water. Since these chemicals barely degrade in the environment, they can make their way into the air, the water cycle and also the food chain. There is no risk in wearing functional clothing treated with a DWR finish, since the substances cannot pass through the skin into the body.

What is the situation in production facilities?

In its recently published report, Greenpeace proves that in some cases the environmental burden for humans and the environment in production countries is actually critical.

Mammut recognized this problem prior to the publication of the current Greenpeace report and has taken action. In January 2011, we committed to the bluesign® standard, currently the strictest environmental standard in the industry. The approach is based on completely eliminating dangerous chemicals from the production process. We are therefore tackling the problem at the source to ensure that, in the end, the finished product has no adverse effects.