Nikwax has been arguing against the use of fluorocarbon chemicals (PFCs) in aftercare products for about ten years. We have highlighted their environmentally persistent nature, and the studies linking them to reduced fertility, damaged immune systems in children and other negative health impacts.
We would like to reassure our customers, dealers and industry partners that NONE of the products in the Nikwax aftercare range contain PFCs of any kind. Most PFCs used in the industry until now have been based on so called “C8” chemistry. It is now common to hear the argument that shorter PFCs, such as the “C6” versions are safe. At Nikwax we have not seen any convincing evidence of this, and in line with the recommendations of the Greenpeace report, we will continue to exclude C6 PFCs from our products.
Some retailers may have been looking for “eco-labels”
We hope that this will help you answer questions about Nikwax products in the context of concern over fluorocarbon chemicals (PFCs). Nikwax’s position on fluorocarbons (PFCs):
1. Nikwax would like to reassure retail customers that NIKWAX AFTERCARE PRODUCTS CONTAIN NO FLUOROCARBON (PFC) WATER AND STAIN REPELLENT COMPONENTS.
2. Nikwax DOES NOT consider that consumers are at significant direct risk through purchasing and wearing a PFC coated jacket - the likelihood of transfer is low but not impossible. However, discharges from factories that produce PFC treated textiles do contribute to locally and globally significant pollution of water and food.
3. Nikwax DOES consider that there may be a significant risk associated with PFC liquid products intended for use in the home. The amount of product necessary to be potentially damaging is extremely low. Regular home application of fluorocarbon water-repellents could easily lead to cross-contamination with food. In addition, spray products can be inhaled.
“Nikwax products are designed to be safer for humans and the environment. For over 30 years, our company has been producing water repellent aftercare for boots, gear and clothing, and we’ve never used PFCs because of the associated concerns,” says Nick Brown, founder and CEO of Nikwax.
There was a time, over 10 years ago, when Brown considered the use of PFCs in the Nikwax aftercare product collection.
“I looked carefully at the issues associated with PFCs and decided no way! It’s my responsibility to place the safety of my customers and the environment as top priority, and for me PFCs are an unacceptable risk,” Brown said. “We’ve worked hard to develop high performance alternatives, and raise the issue to consumers and the industry.”
Brown believes Nikwax is the only major aftercare brand to take the PFC issue seriously, and has shown it is possible to make excellent aftercare products without using these chemicals.
The bigger challenge, he says, is to move away from PFCs in the textile industry. Large outdoor equipment brands can play a vital role in this by demanding alternatives at the textile mill level. If they create the demand, chemical manufacturers will develop viable solutions.
Scientific studies have been run by governmental organizations, those also supported the banning of PFCs in consumer goods (see U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/
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Read the full Greenpeace report here (http://www.greenpeace.de/
Nikwax Environmental Page (http://nikwax.com/
Relevant quotes from the Greenpeace report, “Chemistry for any weather – Greenpeace tests outdoor clothes for perfluorinated toxins,” October 2012
“Images of pristine nature are often used for advertising outdoor clothing. But nature does not remain untouched by the chemicals in weather-resistant fabrics. All over the world, from secluded mountain lakes and Arctic polar ice to deep in the oceans, traces can be found of perfluorinated and polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs), pollutants with properties that are harmful to the environment and health.” Section 1, Summary, page 5
“All 14 samples of outdoor clothing contained extractable PFCs. This was regardless of whether the label indicated that the product was made with a fluorine membrane such as Gore-Tex or Teflon, or finished with a coating containing fluorine compounds.” Section 3, Summary, page 13.
“Beware of textile labels. Certifications and textile labels indicate that materials are free of hazardous substances, which is not always true. In spite of known risks to health and the environment, products coated with fluorine compounds can still be awarded the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 or the bluesign standard that is popular with outdoor clothing manufacturers. There is an urgent need to raise these standards.” Section 5, Tips for consumers, page 27.
“The outdoor clothing industry presents a very flattering image of itself and ex- presses commitment to environmental protection in numerous publications and promotional activities. However, the Greenpeace investigation described here points out a mismatch between assertion and action. The industry is still far from reducing its use of hazardous chemicals to zero and thereby ending its pollution of waters and drinking water. Water is a scarce and threatened re- source in many regions of the world.” Section 6, Summary, page 29.
Nikwax was founded in 1977 and is the global leader in environmentally safe aftercare and waterproofing solutions that extend the life and performance of technical footwear, apparel and equipment. Nikwax uses formulations that deliver maximum effectiveness while minimizing environmental impacts and promoting sustainability. Nikwax is the only major aftercare company to have never used aerosols, fluorocarbons, or volatile organic chemicals. All Nikwax products are fluorochemical-
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