Test: Are fluorinated substances used in snowsuits for children?

6. nov 2018

Fluorinated substances can be used to make outdoor wear water repellent. A test of 11 snowsuits on the Danish market shows that 2 suits contain fluorinated substances that are problematic in the environment and to our health.

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Test: Are fluorinated substances used in snowsuits for children?
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Children snowsuits: Many good choices on the market

Manufacturers may use so-called fluorinated substances in snowsuits and other types of outdoor clothing.

The compounds can make the material both water- and dirt repellent, but at the same time breathable. However, the substances can be problematic for both the environment and health.

A test of snowsuits from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals shows mainly good news. In 9 out of 11 products fluorinated substances have not been used to make the children's outerwear waterproof.

See the chemical test of snowsuits with product pictures (in Danish)

Fluorinated substances: Avoid the problematic substances in outdoor clothing

2 snowsuits in the test contained fluorinated substances in higher amounts.

Fluorinated substances do not degrade. Instead, they can accumulate in the environment and the body. Several of the compounds are also suspected of being carcinogenic and of affecting the immune system.

The use of fluorinated substances is problematic and so is also their contribution to the overall cocktail of unwanted chemicals in our everyday life. Therefore, it makes sense to choose outdoor clothes without fluorinated substances.

However, a snowsuit treated with fluorinated compounds does not cause a health problem in itself, and if you already bought one containing fluorinated substances you do not have to throw it away.

If you have further questions contact project manager Stine Müller on sm@fbr.dk

Read about all tests performed by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

How we tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has tested the content of fluorinated substances in 11 snowsuits.

The purpose of the test was to determine whether the manufacturer intentionally use fluorinated substances to make the outerwear water-resistant.

The tested suits have been selected based on a vote among members of the Danish Consumer Council. The brands that received the most votes were included in the test.

The snowsuits have been tested by measuring the total organic fluor content after burning the outer material of the suit. The combustion converts all organic fluor into so-called hydrogen fluoride, which can then be measured.

High levels of total organic fluor indicate that the manufacturer intentionally use fluorinated substances in the product.

What we found

  • 9 snowsuits had a low content of total organic fluor. In these suits, fluorinated substances have not been used to make them waterproof.
  • 2 snowsuits had a significantly higher content of total organic fluor, which means that fluorinated substances have been used to make these suits water-resistant.

The test only assesses the total organic fluor content and not which specific fluorinated compounds were used and present in the products.

In more details the results of the test were:

  • In 3 snowsuits, the content of total organic fluor was below the limit of measurement
  • In 6 snowsuits, the content of total organic fluor was between 2.7 and 21 milligrams per kilo.
  • In 2 snowsuits, the content of total organic fluor was 160 and 820 milligrams per kilogram, respectively.

Markings

The tested snowsuits with low content of total organic fluor have different claims:

• PFC-free
• FC-free
• Fluor free recipe etc.

In addition, several snowsuits indicate that they are treated with "Bionic Finish", a fluor-free textile treatment.

The two fluor-treated snowsuits in the test did not have similar "fluor-free" claims.

One of the two suits was, however, labeled with Ökotex100 Confidence in Textiles. Ökotex100 set up limits for selected fluorinated substances in the final product. But the label does not prohibit the use of the group of fluorinated substances as a whole.

Fluorinated substances

Fluorinated substances are a group of substances that are used in products to make them water and fat-repellent. Among other things, you can find fluorinated substances in:

• Packaging of cardboard and paper for food
• Clothes and textiles, including blankets and furniture that repel water and dirt
• Impregnation for clothing, furniture and shoes
• Personal care products

Fluorinated substances are a large group of chemical substances that are problematic for both health and the environment.

The substances are persistent in the environment and accumulate in humans and animals. Fluorinated substances can, among other things, be transmitted from mother to child via breast milk. Several of the compounds are suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and can affect the immune system.

For many fluorinated substances only limited knowledge exists. But overall fluorinated substances are undesirable. However, several of them are still allowed to be used in textiles, for example in snowsuits.

From 2020, a restriction on the use of a group of the most problematic fluorinated substances will enter into force. The restriction will cover PFOA and PFOA-related substances and will also apply for textile.

What the companies say

Mikk-line:

"The tested snowsuit is from the 2017-collection.

All our products are tested against REACH, the EU's chemical legislation, which aims to improve the protection of human health and, in particular, the environment against the risks that chemicals may pose.

We guarantee that all our products comply with the REACH-regulation and we continually test our products at SGS, the worldwide testing company."

Wheat:

"As for most other brands, our outerwear has so far been impregnated with a common coating.

All of these coatings can contain nano amounts of fluorinated substances. To deal with this challenge all our outerwear has been OEKO-TEX 100 certified since 2016.

With the Spring/Summer 19 collection, we want to take it one step further. In the 2019-collection that will enter the marked in January all Wheat outerwear - including thermo, technical outerwear, rainwear, softshell etc. will be completely free of fluorinated substances.

We have instead found a solution that is bio-based, thoroughly tested and at the same time gives our products a long shelf life.

In the longer term, this will have a positive impact on the children, the parents' economy and, not least, the environment."

Advice: Ask in the shop and look for “PFC free” claims

Many of the snowsuits without fluorinated substances are marketed with claims like:

  • Free of fluor
  • PFC-free
  • FC-free
  • Fluor-free recipe

You can look for these claims if you want to avoid snowsuits or other all-weather clothing treated with fluorinated substances.

You may also ask in the store for outerwear without fluorinated substances.

The textile label “Ökotex100-Confidence in textiles” is not enough to ensure that the outdoor clothing is without fluorinated substances. The label set requirements for selected fluorinated substances but not for the group of fluorinated substances as a whole.