H&M are banning the use of perfluorinated compounds, a class of industrial chemicals used primarily to repel water and oil in outerwear. The Swedish apparel label says it has developed an alternative that “fulfills [its] demands on water repellence and has good environmental and health properties.” Although perfluorinated acids have been incorporated into many brand-name chemicals since World War II, scientists are concerned that the same properties that make them attractive to industry, such as chemical stability and resistance to high temperatures, may have serious effects on human health and the environment.
Used in the manufacture of coatings such as Teflon and Gore-Tex, PFCs are a ubiquitous pollutant with a heavy body burden. Because perfluorinated acids do not degrade, they’ve been discovered in the Arctic, in food samples, and in nearly all human-blood samples that have been tested.
In 2011, after Greenpeace released a damning report about toxic pollution in the garment industry, H&M teamed up with Adidas, C&A, Li Ning, Nike, and Puma to develop a joint road map towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
“As a brand, we have since some time already worked on restricting and phasing out perfluorinated substances, and a full ban on this has been an important part of our individual action plan,” the company says in a release.
H&M is also a part of the Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management Group, better known as AFIRM, an international working team of leading companies within the textile and footwear industries that seeks to reduce the use and impact of harmful substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain.
The retailer’s ban on PFCs will take effect on January 1, which means that all orders placed in 2013 and later will be produced without the compounds.
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