Here at Rab we have been monitoring the research on the impact of fluorocarbons (commonly known as PFCs) on the environment. Our materials experts are working hard to develop an effective alternative on a product by product basis.
Fluorocarbons are widely used in outdoor clothing and equipment in the manufacture of durable water repellent finishes (DWRs). The use of effective DWRs prevents items from ‘wetting out’, which can have consequences to user safety and comfort in the mountains and outdoors. Fluorocarbons also prevent dirt and oils from adhering to the material which will impact the performance and the longevity of the product.
There is increasing research which demonstrates that fluorocarbons can leach from materials and gradually find their way into water systems. They have been found in water, food, soil and in the air. The compounds themselves have been associated with health problems in wildlife and people. PFOA and PFOS are restricted by legislation (EU legislation comes into effect 2020). They have been highlighted to be persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic. The impact of outdoor products as a route of exposure has been explored but is not wholly understood.
In line with the legislation, we only use fluorocarbon-free DWRs or shorter chain PFCs (C6) DWRs, but we are committed to removing these from our products.
The performance and durability of fluorocarbon free DWRs is a real issue. Finding a replacement for the effectiveness of fluorocarbons used for DWRs is proving challenging for the industry due to the properties of the chemistry. The longevity and quality of our products is paramount. Our products protect people in harsh environments, and we will not compromise on that. Finding a suitable replacement which allows our products to perform to the standards expected by our customers is proving challenging but is our goal.