When purchasing outdoor products, what should I watch out for when I want to avoid the use of PFCs?
- It is important that every customer, with the help of expert advice, chooses a product with the functionality needed for his or her purpose. That might mean that instead of buying a waterproof jacket, a water-repellent jacket is preferable.
- If you want to purchase a water repellent product that has been made with environmentally friendly manufacturing and without the use of PFCs, look for VAUDE’s Eco-Finish label.
What has VAUDE achieved so far in its transition away from the use of PFCs and where are PFCs still used?
- Since 2010, VAUDE has used PTFE-free membranes exclusively which require no PFC for their production. With theSympatex® membrane from polyetheresther (PE) and our in-house Ceplex membrane made of polyurethane (PU), VAUDE provides PTFE-free alternatives with superior functionality.
- Beginning with the Summer Collection 2015, all water-repellent apparel, such as softshells, wind jackets or thermal jackets have featured PFC-free DWR. These are marked with the Eco-Finish An overview of all water-repellent products with Eco-Finish can be found here.
- In our waterproof apparel, we are still using PFC in our DWR to achieve standard water beading properties. Since 2014, however, our DWR has been completely PFOA-free; instead of using C8 chemicals we use less problematic C6 chemicals. We are working hard with our material manufacturers toward the complete withdrawal from PFC use, and have voluntarily made a commitment to becoming 100% PFC-free throughout the entire collection by 2020.
What are PFCs and where are they used?
- PFC is an abbreviation for per-and polyfluorinated chemicals. This is a group of substances that have water- oil- and dirt-repellent properties. They are employed in the manufacture of many products used in everyday life, such as non-stick frying pans, fire fighting foam, home textiles (carpets) as well as functional textiles. The outdoor industry, however, is only responsible for a small fraction of the PFCs released over the world.
How and why are PFCs used in outdoor gear?
If you buy a rain jacket, you expect it to be waterproof and that water and dirt will bead up on the jacket’s exterior. In order to achieve this, two things are necessary.
- The jacket is given a membrane that functions like a thin skin incorporated between fabric layers. This membrane blocks water but at the same time, is breathable. There are membranes that require PFC in their production. VAUDE, however, only uses membranes that do not require the use of PFCs.
- Another application is DWR (Durable Water Repellency). With this chemical finish, textile surfaces are given a permanent finish which ensures that water and dirt bead up on the product’s exterior. Without this treatment, the outer fabric would quickly become soaked through, which leads to a clammy, wet feeling despite the jacket’s membrane.
How harmful are PFCs?
PFCs are non-biodegradable; they end up in the environment primarily through wastewater and are transferred to human organisms through the food chain. They are suspected of being carcinogenic. According to current knowledge, there is no direct risk for the wearer of outdoor products manufactured with PFCs. The manufacturing process, subsequent washing and finishing, as well as product disposal are problematic.
Further information on the issue of PFC and VAUDE’s commitment to environmentally friendly products can be found in our Sustainability Report.