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ROME – The net would appear to be closing further on three chemicals which are used in textile manufacture for their water and oil resistance properties. A UN expert committee has now recommended global action on PFOA, PFOS and PFHxS – fluorinated substances which have been identified as persistent, bioaccumulative and reprotoxic.

Apparel Insider understands that a review committee for the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) met recently as part of a move to agree recommendations for the substances, ahead of a meeting in 2019 when final decisions are expected.

The three chemicals are all used in various manufacturing forms for their water and oil resistance. At the meeting in Italy, the POPs Review Committee (POPRC) recommended listing PFOA in Annex A of the treaty. This calls for global elimination, albeit with some exceptions.

PFAS substances have been under the radar for several years, and there has been a move by many in the outdoor industry to move away from fluorinated chemistry altogether – despite available alternatives not performing as robustly, particularly in the area of oil resistance.

Apparel Insider asked Stefan Posner for his thoughts in the latest move by the Stockholm Convention committee. Posner is a senior researcher at RISE (Swerea IVF) and has several decades working in this complex area. He told us: “… this is a very valuable and important legal step for the phase out of major contaminants of the PFAS family. This signals [the intention] to seriously promote innovative work by academia together with industry, including the chemicals industry, to replace ‘new’ PFASs since the message of their extreme persistence, mobility (especially short chains) and toxicity is increasingly of concern.

“Since our resources of water and food are limited, especially water, these PFAS with their extreme persistence are a direct threat to our long-term provision of fresh water.

“Discussions in EU are [around] ‘essential uses’ for the remaining PFAS that cannot be replaced with non PFAS where life is at stake. I do hope that we soon have a legal definition on ‘essential uses’ to start phasing out so called low hanging fruit.”

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