PFC Blog: Newest information and updates
We are committed to continue our PFC-phase out journey and want to keep you up to date about future challenges and achievements. In our "PFC Blog" we provide you with regular updates and insights into our strategy, considerations, objectives and actions with regard to the phasing out of PFCs. Have a look at the latest articles here.
Mammut has defined an ambitious plan to become PFC-free by 2020. By 2020, we will not use any PFC treatment within our apparel line with the exception of our core segment, where a maximum of water and dirt repellency are required in order to guarantee the safety of users:
Mammut stands for 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. Meanwhile we aim for our products to leave the smallest possible ecological footprint.
Every item of functional (breathable) weather protection clothing has undergone a durable water-repellent (DWR) protective treatment, which provides the typical beading effect. The DWR treatment prevents the outer fabric layer from becoming saturated with water and can reduce vapor penetration by up to 80%. It also protects the material from contamination with dirt, grease (from the skin), oils and salts (dried sweat). It is therefore of central importance to the functionality and durability of weather protection clothing.
To ensure the high requirements of the functionality and durability of our products, we have in the past used long-chain fluorine compounds, known as C8 PFC chemicals, to treat our products. C8 chemicals established themselves as a highly effective and durable DWR treatment in the outdoor industry and their performance has been proven under the toughest conditions. A few years ago, scientific studies found that certain traces of impurities or degradation products of C8 chemicals exhibit toxicological properties (PFOAs and PFOSs) and are also persistent and bio-accumulative. These findings made the continued use of C8 unacceptable for Mammut and the outdoor industry, which is why their use has been completely stopped in a joint effort.
The to-date unsuccessful search for suitable alternatives began at the same time as the discovery of the negative effects of PFOAs and PFOSs on humans and the environment. In countless tests neither Mammut nor any other brand or scientific institution has yet been able to identify a commercially available PFC-free treatment that can ensure performance comparable to C8 chemicals.
A particular problem is the reduced durability of many alternative DWR treatments. They wear out faster, are far less able to be reactivated and allow the outer material to become saturated with water in less time than when impregnated with PFC. The result: Reduced comfort and a health risk through hypothermia. Furthermore, PFC-free DWRs often offer unsatisfactory protection - or no protection at all - from contamination of the material with dirt, grease, oils and salts, which quickly reduces the breathability of the treatment. As a result, clothing that uses alternative DWR treatments frequently has to be retreated or more regularly replaced, both of which in turn contribute to the environmental impact of a product.
The production of any product leaves an ecological footprint. This is influenced by a variety of factors. These include, among others, the choice of environmentally-friendly raw materials, the considerate use of resources, low-emission production and short transportation distances, as well as durability and the proper disposal of products. It is important for us, as manufacturers, to take all these factors into consideration and weigh them against each other in complex decision processes. For this purpose, when considering the whole product life cycle, durability stands out by far as the most important factor in reducing the ecological footprint. Buying a high-quality jacket which performs its function over a long period of time is more resource-efficient and more environmentally friendly than using one that needs to be often reimpregnated or replaced.
We are therefore convinced that: Quality and durability provide the greatest sustainability. That is why we are provisionally using a targeted and responsible durable short-chain and PFOA/PFOS-free form of PFC (known as C6 chemistry) as a substitute for C8 chemistry, and prefer it to these short-lived, less efficient and not necessarily environmentally-friendly alternatives. C6 chemistry achieves a good performance in terms of functionality and durability compared to C8 chemistry, but has a significantly better environmental profile than its longer-chain counterpart. For this reason, in our view, C6 chemistry currently provides the best combination of performance and environmental friendliness.
- We always question the use of PFCs critically and use them only when they are absolutely necessary. Our technical clothing must protect the wearer against extreme weather conditions when in use in high alpine conditions; this functionality must be retained even after repeated wear. In this way, last year, we were able to increase the volume of PFC-free materials used in our clothing from a total of 71% to 77% (in meters).
- We work only with those partners who can ensure the highest environmental standards in dealing with PFCs. For example, our long term partner W.L. Gore (GORE-TEX®), has decided to certify all their work according to ISO 14001, the internationally recognized environmental management standard. In addition, all Mammut suppliers that use PFCs have to successfully pass stringent bluesign® screening, in which they are required to use chemicals responsibly and the environmental impact they cause is tested, as well as their water and energy flows.
- Since January 2011 we have been a bluesign® system partner and, as such, are committed to implementing the stringent bluesign® standard. This standard regulates in particular all relevant impurities occurring in PFCs with strict low limits.
- We have switched from long-chain to short-chain PFOA/PFOS-free PFCs because they have a much better toxicological and ecological profile than their long-chain counterparts.
- We provide our customers with information about the proper care and disposal of technical clothing, so that the functionality of our products is preserved as long as possible and, when disposed of, releases a minimum of pollutants in the environment.
- We are pursuing the search for PFC-free alternatives and, working with competitors, specialists, fabric manufacturers, textile finishers and the textile chemicals industry, we are continuing to develop new technologies. Over the coming years our partner W.L. Gore will be investing 15 million euros in research into alternative technologies.
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Why does Greenpeace view PFCs as problematic?
According to Greenpeace, PFCs constitute a problem because the fluorine-carbon bond is very stable and the substances are difficult or impossible to break down in the environment. Certain traces of impurities or degradation products of C8 chemicals (known as PFOAs and PFOSs) also exhibit toxicological and bio-accumulative properties. PFCs can make their way into the environment and the food chain either directly during production or indirectly through the use and disposal of products containing PFCs.
For this reason, we have identified this chemical group as a priority and are already taking steps to address it using targeted measures.
There is no health risk to wearers of functional jackets as, according to the current state of knowledge, the substances cannot pass through the skin to the human body.
Do PFC-treated jackets pose a risk to the wearer?
No. There is no health risk to wearers of functional jackets as, according to the current state of knowledge, the substances cannot pass through the skin to the human body. Our products comply with all statutory limits.
The main risk is that PFCs can make their way into the environment and food chain either directly during production or indirectly through the use and disposal of products containing PFCs.
Why are there PFCs in a Mammut jacket?
Every item of functional (breathable) weather protection clothing has undergone a durable water-repellent (DWR) protective treatment, which provides the typical beading and prevents the outer fabric layer from becoming saturated with water.
Their exceptional properties, in particular their water-, dirt- and grease-repellent behavior and their significant surface-tension-reducing properties, make PFCs very suitable for this application.
For mountaineers and outdoor sports enthusiasts it is vital that functional clothing stays dry and functional in difficult conditions. Out in the mountains, this is a safety factor and can even be life-saving. Unfortunately, none of the currently available PFC-free alternatives achieve the same high level of functionality and durability.
What measures has Mammut introduced?
As a responsible company, Mammut has committed itself to high standards of safety in relation to the consumer, the environment and in the workplace. For this reason we have provisionally switched from C8 to short-chain C6 chemicals, which have a considerably better environmental and human-toxicological profile than their long-chain counterparts . We are therefore continuing our intensive search for PFC-free alternatives together with other outdoor sports industry manufacturers, specialists, material manufacturers, textile finishers and the textile chemical industry.
Parallel to this we have begun to challenge the use of C6 chemicals on our products and eliminate it wherever it is not absolutely necessary for functionality.
Furthermore, we have been a member of bluesign technologies since 2011 and as such, committed ourselves to the implementation of the stringent bluesign® standard, which regulates all relevant impurities occurring in PFCs with strict, low limits.
What commitments has Mammut undertaken and what is Mammut’s position in relation to the DETOX campaign?
In principle, we support the demands of Greenpeace's DETOX campaign. We have committed ourselves to completely moving away from critical long-chain perfluorinated chemicals (C8) in our clothing by 2015. We are aware that this is only a first step on the way towards the complete phasing out of PFC technology. In view of the fact that there is currently no known alternative that meets our high requirements and the many outstanding questions to which there are still no clear answers, at the present time we are unable to fulfill Greenpeace's maximum requirement to the full extent.
As a business, how do we account for using these chemicals?
Mammut wants to offer its customers the best outdoor and mountain sport products while at the same time leaving the smallest possible ecological footprint. To date, only PFC-based textile treatments have achieved the required level of functionality. There is also a lack of independent scientific studies proving that the alternatives available on the market are actually more environmentally friendly than PFCs considering the side-effects, such as reduced durability.
According to the current state of knowledge, there is no health or safety risk for wearers of functional clothing. Our products comply with all statutory limits.
We are making committed efforts to find real alternatives. However, the onus is primarily on the chemical industry. In this respect, we welcome Greenpeace's DETOX campaign and hope that it will lead chemical manufacturers to develop and launch more environmentally friendly alternatives offering equally good functionality on the market.
What are “PFCs”?
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCS) are organic fluorine compounds, in which all carbon-bonded hydrogen atoms are substituted by fluorine atoms. They encompass a wide range of chemical substances with different compositions and environmental influences.
Their exceptional properties, in particular their water-, dirt- and grease-repellent behavior, mean that the outdoor industry uses PFCs for water-repellent coating on weather protection clothing. They also have a very low surface tension and very high thermal and chemical stability, which makes them ideal for applications in extreme conditions. These properties are based on the extreme stability of the C-F bond, which is one of the strongest known covalent bonds. Unfortunately, the extreme stability of the C-F bond is also responsible for the fact that PFCs are difficult or impossible to break down in the environment. Toxic and bio-accumulative properties have also been demonstrated in some PFCs.
How many chemicals are used in the textile and clothing industry?
The textile and clothing industry uses a lot of chemicals: chemical substances are used in each of our garments (not just outdoor clothing). These are needed to dye the textiles or give the garments the required functionality.
Around 25% of 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 functionality in terms of repelling water, dirt and oil.
Are there no statutory regulations on PFCs or PFOA?
There is no statutory regulation for all PFCs.
Since mid-2014, there have been legal rules and limits concerning PFOAs (a by-product of C8 PFC chemicals) in Norway. More recently, there have been efforts to regulate PFOAs and related substances in the EU. However, these are still in the initial phase.
The situation is different for PFOSs: These are also trace contaminants which can arise from long-chain perfluorinated chemicals. According to European legislation, PFOSs are already strictly limited (threshold value of 1 μg/m2) and have already been eliminated from clothing production.
What is the situation in production facilities?
In its DETOX reports, Greenpeace demonstrates that the environmental impact in production countries is actually critical for humans and the environment in some cases.
Mammut has recognized this problem and in January 2011 committed itself to the bluesign® standard, currently strictest environmental standard in the industry. The bluesign® approach is based on input-stream management, i.e. the substances and amounts thereof used, wastewater, emissions are inspected not only in the case of the final product, but also at all preliminary stages - down to the dyer and chemical supplier. Together with bluesign technologies, we are pursuing the long-term goal of changing our entire production chain so that chemicals with a critical effect on humans and the environment according to the bluesign® do not enter the manufacturing process in the first place.