Outdoor brands including The North Face, Patagonia and Mammut are being urged to eliminate all PFCs from their products and supply chains after the hazardous chemicals were discovered in their clothing, footwear and outdoor equipment. 

In its latest investigation, Greenpeace said that out of 40 products from 19 different countries and regions that were tested, PFCs were found in high concentrations in 18 items. Specifically, high levels of PFOA, a long-chain PFC that is linked to a number of health effects, including cancer and already restricted in Norway, were identified. 

The hazardous PFCs were found not only in outdoor clothing and footwear but also camping and hiking equipment such as backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. Only four products were found to be free from the per- and polyfluorinated chemicals. 

The research would seem to show that hazardous chemicals are still being used in products sold by outdoor brands. At the same time the tests show a shift in the type of PFCs being used towards short chain PFCs – chemicals that are also persistent but less well researched in some aspects.

Presenting the 'Leaving Traces: the Hidden Hazardous Chemicals in Outdoor Gear' report today (25 January) at the ISPO Munich trade fair, Europe's biggest outdoor trade show, Mirjam Kopp, Detox outdoor project leader said: "These are disappointing results for outdoor lovers who want their clothes to be as sustainable and clean as the places they explore."

The brands, which also include Columbia and Haglofs, are being urged to stop using hazardous substances 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," Kopp noted. 

Greenpeace said this is the first product testing that was designed with the participation of the public. More than 30,000 votes were collected, with the environmental activist group sending the 40 top-voted products to the lab. 

The report comes just four months after Greenpeace urged outdoor brands and retailers to eliminate PFCs from their supply chains after the chemicals were discovered in remote regions around the world. 

Greenpeace targets outdoor brands over PFCs

Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) last week published a regulation to ban the use of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in textile articles sold in all European Union member states. 

European Commission bans NPEs in textile items from 2021

Most recently, UK brand Páramo Directional Clothing has joined Greenpeace's Detox campaign, committing to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from its products and supply chains by 2020. 

Greenpeace claims Páramo is the first brand in the outdoor sector that has already eliminated PFC from its entire production chain, and has committed to further eradicate hazardous chemicals from its production chain. 

"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," Kopp added. 

The North Face, Patagonia, Mammut, Columbia and Haglofs have not yet responded to requests for comment. 

Click here to view the full report.