Greenpeace further embedded itself in the outdoor industry last week by exhibiting at the ISPO Munich trade show, where it released research that prompted a European brand to recall a hiking boot.
At the show, Greenpeace released “Leaving Traces,” which found that 11 of 40 outdoor products tested by its laboratory contained per- and polyfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs in excess of levels allowed by Norwegian law. Outdoor brands have long relied on PFCs to make fabrics waterproof and stain resistant, but their strong bonds means they do not easily break down in the environment, where research suggests they can pose risks to human health.
The Grym boot made by the Swedish brand Haglöfs was found to have the highest concentration of the fuorocarbon PFOA of any product tested. On Thursday, Haglöfs not only recalled the Grym, but thanked Greenpeace for publishing the report.
“We are grateful that Greenpeace has drawn our attention to the fact that our boot contains a high amount of the fluorocarbon PFOA, which neither we nor the Norwegian law accept,” said Lennart Ekberg, Sustainability Director at Haglöfs.
Ekberg noted that for products, where the demand for water repellency is not as important, Haglöfs use fluorocarbon-free alternatives.
“We are working to fully eliminate the use of fluorocarbons in our products. But so far we lack a safe and functional alternative when there is an extreme demand for water repellency.” – Lennart Ekberg, Sustainability Director, Haglöfs
“Leaving Traces” marked the first time Greenpeace tested footwear, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and rope in addition to apparel and the first time Greenpeace asked its supporters to vote on which outdoor products and brands they wanted tested. More than 30,000 people responded. In October and November 2015 Greenpeace purchased the 40 most popular products in 19 different countries or regions and sent them to an independent lab for testing. None of the products were purchased in the North America.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, continues to promote PFC-free brands like U.K.-based Páramo, while urging consumers to ask The North Face and Mammut to top using PFCs. Like Haglöfs, those brands say they have yet to find viable alternatives to PFC-based durable water resistant (DWR) finishes.
That claim has been backed up by research W.L. Gore & Associates released in early January found that outdoor products made with PFC-free DWR technology can result in more toxins being released into the environment because consumers must wash and reapply such finishes more often to maintain water repellency.