STOCKHOLM – Fashion giant H&M and Danish retailer Coop are joining chemical expert NGO ChemSec’s call to action to end the use of harmful PFAS chemicals in apparel products and supply chains. The commitment came on the same day as award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo and director Todd Haynes addressed the EU Parliament to speak about the true story that inspired the film Dark Waters, in which an environmental attorney takes on chemical giant DuPont and exposes decades of PFAS pollution.
PFAS are a large group of substances known for their water, grease and dirt repelling properties and have been used since the 1950s’ in applications including waterproof clothing. Their use in the outdoor clothing industry remains widespread, by brands such as Patagonia. While several non-fluorinated alternatives to PFAS have been launched, none have yet achieved comparable oil repellence results to PFAS.
ChemSec’s corporate PFAS initiative includes a call on policy makers to regulate PFAS efficiently, without the possibility for manufacturers to swap one PFAS chemical for an unregulated ‘cousin’. It is also calling on the chemical industry to put money into innovation and develop safer alternatives to PFAS for all kinds of products, and to recognise that PFAS are a major health and environmental problem.
In addition, it wants a serious commitment to end all non-essential PFAS uses in products and supply chains and is calling on other brands to join this commitment and work towards a phase-out of PFAS in all kinds of consumer products.
SaidAnne-Sofie Bäckar, executive director at ChemSec: “It’s obvious that business as usual is not an option. But change will not come easy – it will require policy makers to take some uncomfortable decisions. As there are almost unbelievable amounts of money in PFAS production, parts of industry will fight for the old ways, tooth and nail. But as we can show today with this corporate commitment, there are companies that welcome legislation and say a definitive No to PFAS.
“At ChemSec, we know there are thousands of companies out there that support legislative action and also have very advanced strategies to limit their use of PFAS. We seriously hope that these companies will join H&M and Coop Denmark in this great initiative.”
The industrial use of PFAS has been so prevalent in the last decades that today 99 per cent of every human, including foetuses, have measurable levels of PFAS in their bloodstreams.
Studies have found associations between PFAS exposure and a number of health disorders, including various cancers, lowered birth weights and negative effects on the immune system.