Hazardous chemicals found in many outdoor clothing brands

Publication date: 25th January 2016

Hazardous and persistent chemicals, dangerous to human health and the environment, have been found in the products of leading outdoor brands.

Brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Mammut, Columbia and Haglofs keep using PFCs to make their gear waterproof despite their claims of sustainability and a love for nature, a new Greenpeace report has revealed. The report, Leaving Traces: the Hidden Hazardous Chemicals in Outdoor Gear was presented today at a press conference at ISPO Munich, the biggest outdoor trade show in Europe.

Greenpeace tested 40 products purchased in 19 different countries and regions. Hazardous PFCs were not only found in clothing but also in shoes, tents, backpacks, ropes and even in sleeping bags. In only four items were no PFCs detected. Although most of the brands tested claim publicly that they are no longer using the most hazardous long-chain PFCs, they were still found in high concentrations in 18 items.

“We found high levels of PFOA, a long-chain PFC that is linked to a number of health effects, including cancer, in some products from The North Face and Mammut. This substance is already restricted in Norway. These are disappointing results for outdoor lovers who want their clothes to be as sustainable and clean as the places they explore“ said Mirjam Kopp, Detox Outdoor project Leader.

PFCs are chemical compounds that don’t exist in nature. Once released into the environment many of them degrade very slowly and enter the food chain, making pollution almost irreversible. They have been found in very remote areas of the planet, in animals like dolphins and in polar bears’ livers and even in human blood.

“Brands like The North Face and Mammut are not walking their talk of love and respect for nature when it comes to the chemicals they use in their production chain. Together with the outdoor community, we challenge them to show us what true leadership and respect for nature means: stop using hazardous chemicals and detox their gear now,” added Kopp.

In recent years, many outdoor brands have started switching from long-chain to short-chain PFCs, claiming that these are better alternatives. But recently, more than 200 scientists from 38 countries signed the ‘Madrid statement‘ which recommends avoiding the use of PFCs — including short chain — for the production of consumer products, including textiles.

While major outdoor brands are still highly dependent on hazardous chemicals, UK brand Páramo Directional Clothing today announced its commitment to Detox. Páramo is the first brand in the outdoor sector that has already eliminated PFC from its entire production chain, showing that high-performance PFCs-free gear is possible and setting the highest standard within the sector. Now Páramo has committed to further eradicate hazardous chemicals from its production chain. The UK brand joins 34 international fashion and sports brands already committed to Detox.

“We are convinced that the outdoor community really has the leverage to be a game-changer in the industry and we are calling on the brands to accept the challenge to detox that their customers are asking for “concluded Kopp.

On Saturday 30 January, Greenpeace volunteers and outdoor communities across the UK are getting together to ask outdoor companies to stop polluting the environment with toxic chemicals. For full details of activities, see: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/content/detox-map/

This is the first product testing from Greenpeace that was designed in collaboration with a community of supporters and outdoor lovers. More than 30,000 votes were collected onhttp://detox-outdoor.org/, with Greenpeace sending the 40 top-voted products to the lab.


Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer, Greenpeace UK, luke.massey@greenpeace.org, +44 (0)7973 873 155

Constanze Klinghammer, press officer at ISPO, Mobile: +49 175/3454113

Greenpeace International Press Desk, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org, phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

Mirjam Kopp: Global Project Leader Detox Outdoor +41 44 447 41 59 – mirjam.kopp@greenpeace.org


Poly- and per-fluorinated compounds, (or PFCs) are used in many industrial processes and consumer products. The outdoor industry in particular is an important user, since it applies PFCs to make products waterproof and dirt-repellent. Once released into the environment, many PFCs are broken down very slowly; they remain in the environment for many years and are dispersed across the entire planet. Some PFCs may cause harm to reproduction, promote the growth of tumours and affect the hormone system.