People who are exposed to PFCs tell their stories.
We went to remote areas to test for PFCs and we found them everywhere.
The best known case of PFC pollution is in the USA, where the DuPont chemical company has been manufacturing PFCs in the mid-Ohio valley since the 1950’s.
A class action lawsuit against DuPont in the 2000’s led to an extensive study of health effects suffered by local residents exposed to PFCs in their drinking water, a problem that was first discovered in the 1980’s. Up to 69,000 people are potentially affected.
Very high levels of PFOA were found in blood serum in the local population, compared to levels in the general population, which varied according to the distance of people’s houses from the plant; this has been associated with both kidney and testicular cancer, and associations with prostate and ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are also suggested.
In 2013 PFCs were found in drinking water as well as surface water in the Veneto Region of Italy, at extremely high levels, which were traced to a wastewater treatment plant used by PFC manufacturer Miteni.
The concentrations of PFOA in drinking water were between 90 and 1800 times higher than in nearby areas not affected by contamination and despite the fact that Miteni stopped producing PFOA in 2011, levels remain 140 times higher than these background levels.
A total population of 350,000-400,000 is potentially exposed. The initial results of a biomonitoring study found a number of PFCs in the blood serum of local residents, at 11 times higher than levels in the general population for PFOA.
A recent 2015 study in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, found that people living in the direct vicinity of the Dupont/Chemours factory have been exposed to PFOA in the air for many years, in excess of the limit values for chronic exposure.
The DuPont factory, which is one its largest production plants in Europe, opened in 1960. PFCs were not elevated in local drinking water supplies, but following the release of air monitoring results, blood samples were taken from two residents which both showed elevated levels of PFOA.
As a result, the Dutch health authorities are undertaking aa larger scale monitoring programme to monitor levels of PFOA in the blood serum of local residents; the sampling has already taken place, with the results due in 2017.
While manufacturing of PFOA in all three of the plants in the USA and Europe has now ceased, following agreement with regulatory authorities, the spare capacity has simply been taken up by manufacturing in China, including the Dongyuechem Company in Shandong Province.
Studies in 2016 show that the levels of PFCs in river water samples, taken near where the company discharges its effluent, are amongst the highest ever found; levels of PFCs found in groundwater samples around the plant are also high.
PFCs have also been found in indoor and outdoor dust, at levels that decrease according to the distance from the plant: there is concern that the levels of PFOA in indoor dust pose a health risk to toddlers living 2 km from this plant.
Greenpeace is investigating seven of the most remote areas around the world for the presence of PFCs, sampling water and snow and testing them to expose how widespread the problem of contamination really is.
Greenpeace Chile travelled to the Patagonian mountains of Torres del Paine, a national park in the country’s south. The weather, with temperatures as low as -13 Celsius and wind gusts over 80 km/h, was very inhospitable.
We sampled successfully, but left quickly because of a snowstorm. The trek lasted almost 20 hours, and with the extreme conditions sleeping wasn’t easy.
After two demanding days we returned, happy to have accomplished our task. Despite the weather, it was a very nice experience and I'm happy about the opportunity to participate.
The tour was quite exhausting for a lowlander. Up to the lakes we had to
overcome 700 meters in altitude and all kinds of weather - sunshine to rain
and snow and sleet.
My Swiss Greenpeace colleagues and I took samples of snow to show how widespread the PFC pollution is.
It's a paradox: The outdoor industry pretends they love nature but they leave toxic traces throughout seemingly untouched places. PFCs have no business there, they are man-made and not biodegradable; some are carcinogenic, others cause harm to reproductive systems.
Our teams however were fully equipped with weeatherproof gear that uses PFC-free alternatives. Our gear withstood even the extreme conditions 5000 meters above sea level in the Chinese Haba mountains. And they stayed dry through snow storms and rain in the Patagonias mountains.
Umbria is called “the green hearth” of Italy and it is definitely very green, especially with such a rain! After three hours of hiking we reached Pilato Lake, the only glacial lake south of the Alps.
It’s a very special pristine lake, protected by European Union, because of a tiny endemic crustacean, living only here.
We were afraid, doing the sampling, to harm it, but the Park assured us that in this time of the year it lives in the very bottom of the lake.
We woke up at 5:30 to heavy rain beating on the windows of the base camp and were soon off to our hike. We then had to take a steep path to our goal, the valley Žabia Bielovodská Dolina (Whitewater Valley of Frogs), one of the most untouched places in Slovakia, a natural jewel of our country. Our glasses were so misty we could hardly see any of the frogs, though.
The rain suddenly got really heavy – fortunately sample taking went smoothly, and with sealed samples and freezing fingers, we headed back. The trip left a bittersweet aftertaste - bitter that we missed out on some of the most beautiful views available, sweet, the feeling of success, pushing our boundries while also helping the environment.
For three stunning and adventurous days our small but determined Detox expedition team hiked to the top of three mountains in the area of the Three Country Cairn, one in Sweden, one in Norway and one in Finland.
Under the midnight sun and with the curious company of reindeer, we crossed rivers and walked on snowshoes to collect the snow samples we needed. We wanted to find out if we are unwittingly polluting this extraordinary environment with chemicalsthat are, among other things, used to waterproof our outdoor clothes.
When the road ended, we gathered our belongings and began the long hike up. Eventually we reached the remains of an avalanche near the mountain peak to sample. At sunset, we had to find shelter from the harsh Northeast Turkey weather and found a cabin in the woods. Finished with our work in Çamlıhemşin village, we moved on to Yedi Göller (seven lakes).
The road leading there was completely covered in snow. We soon realized it was blocked, and also noticed tracks nearby which turned out not to be human but bear prints. We quickly gathered the samples and hightailed it back to our vehicle before the animal crossed our path.
We travelled for 29 hours before finally reaching Verhnemultinskoe Lake in the Katunskiy Biosphere Reservation, with its glaciers, waterfalls and mountain lake water of vivid colour. I was told „not to frighten their bears“, and to sing a song when running into them. Fortunately (or unfortunately), instead, we only saw foxes, hares etc.
Locals were very hospitable, asking if PFCs could be causing the observed fish species-extinction. Some were concerned about the lake’s reputation being ruined if we found any pollutants.
There’s much to fall in love with on Altai: Ob and Katun river raging on the plateau, herds of animals freely grazing in the meadows, combined with taiga, glaciers, tundra and steppes! People living there know the real value of nature - we definitely must protect it!
Greenpeace East Asia went to Haba Snow Mountain in Yunnan, southwest China, to collect samples of water and snow and test them for traces of pollutants. Preparation was important, taking samples at such high altitude in potentially harsh weather conditions would be challenging. We could really count on Haosi, our coach and local professional mountain guide.
We set out to Haba village, at the foot of snow mountain. The mist was so thick it covered our view of the snow line. As Haosi gave us a sobering explanation of the dangers of the climb, it dawned on us how hard this task would be.
What are we leaving behind when exploring faraway places, besides our footprints? What are the invisible changes we make?
These brands have committed to Detox, showing that producing outdoor gear without PFCs is possible. Send a big Thank You to these Detox Champions!
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Vaude we are proud of you! You have taken the PFC issue very seriously from the beginning and now you are one of the first big outdoor brands to commit to Detox! Thanks for taking this bold step towards a toxic free future.See brand statement
These brands are starting to accept that PFCs are a big problem. They have made promises to eliminate PFCs by 2020, but some brands are still hiding them in certain products - like membranes, backpacks and shoes - while others are not transparent enough about the elimination process.
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The North Face, you set a goal to produce apparel with non-fluorinated DWR by 2020. This doesn’t sound bad, but we really need you to get rid of those hazardous chemicals in all of your products, including backpacks, shoes and sleeping bags. And please make it clear if you will eliminate those nasty chemicals from membranes as well, or only from DWR.See brand statement
Haglofs, you responded to our campaign announcing that you will use only PFC-free DWR by 2020. This is a step in the right direction, but it seems that you still want to continue selling us membranes made with PFCs. If you really want to be serious about eliminating toxic chemicals you need to join the Detox Champions now.See brand statement
Norrona, you promised to eliminate PFCs from DWR step by step until 2020. It’s a good start, but we’re afraid your promises are not clear enough. Do you want to continue selling us membranes made with PFCs? And what are you going to do about all the other toxic chemicals out there?See brand statement
Salewa you only recently promised you will eliminate PFCs step by step by 2020 but your timeline and intermediate goals are not clear and transparent at all. We would have expected more courage from a brand like you. Apparently you’re not fully fit to “get vertical” in the climb against PFC-pollution.See brand statement
Black Yak, you announced that you will only use PFC-free DWR by 2020. This is a step in the right direction, but it seems you will continue to sell us membranes made with PFCs. Your lack of transparency makes it hard to say if you are taking this seriously Blackyak.See brand statement
Three years ago you were the first to announce a goal of 100% PFC-free by 2020. But now other brands have shown more ambition. So why don’t you catch up with the frontrunners now, and lead the way to a toxic-free future with a Detox commitment?See brand statement
Mammut, you have finally set a timeline for partial PFC elimination until 2020. You're going into the right direction, but the step you are taking is to small to live up to the expectations of more than 200 000 outdoor lovers from around the world who have urged you to Detox. So far, your timeline is only valid for most of your apparel products and DWR. But we also need you to stop using PFCs in membranes, hardware and highest performing products.See brand statement
These brands haven’t heard the concerns of outdoor lovers and scientists. They have just replaced one bad group of chemicals (long chain PFCs) with another (short chain PFCs) and have not set any timelines to get rid of these hazardous chemicals.
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Patagonia you switched from long chain (C8) to shorter-chain(C6) PFCs. This is just replacing one bad thing with another, and you are perfectly aware that this isn’t good enough. Patagonia, from a leader in sustainability we would have expected nothing less than being a Detox Champion.See brand statement
Columbia you switched from long chain (C8) to shorter-chain (C6) PFCs, which is just replacing one bad thing with another. But recently you announced your first PFC-free high performance jacket. It is a first step, but you really need to speed up and eliminate PFC from all your products.See brand statement
Arcteryx you switched from long chain (C8) to shorter-chain (C6) PFCs, which is just replacing one bad thing with another. Now you are trying to convince your customers that these are much less problematic for the environment. It doesn’t look like you are taking any serious action to get rid of your PFC addiction. Very disappointing...See brand statement
Chemical molecules released by industry during the production of water resistant outdoor gear like jackets or tents
Studies show that PFCs impact the reproductive and immune system. They are also potentially carcinogenic.
Once released into the environment, they are distributed globally in the atmosphere. They are highly persistent, which means they stay in the environment for a very long time.
Thanks to your partecipation, we ranked the most wanted brands to discover how much PFCs are inside.