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Water repellent clothes and PFAS

Water repellent clothes and PFAS

2023-08-25 09:01:13

TLDR on the finish.

That is the primary submit on artificial clothes generally. However I’m ranging from some extent I see as most harmful and highest threat to break our well being – DWR and waterproof clothes.

This area has been irking me for fairly a while to test the details and a current tweet by Pieter Ranges lastly made me go deeper into it:


  • nylon – an artificial materials normally used for waterproof clothes (technically polyamide – PA);

  • DWR coating – one thing sometimes placed on nylon, to make it water repellent.

  • PFAS – a household of ~5k molecules, that are manufactured from fluorine and carbon and normally have a particularly lengthy shelf life.

  • PFOA, PFOS, C8, C8, PFHxS, PFNA – among the 5k molecules, all underneath the PFAS household (this one is complicated!)


PFAS has more and more been within the information because the “perpetually molecules”. It apparently can accumulate in our blood and will increase the danger of varied well being points. The scary half – it’s discovered on many family items. And amongst it – on water repellent clothes, lined with DWR coating.

The New York Occasions Journal on Instagram: “PFAS or “perpetually chemical compounds” lurk in a lot of what we eat, drink and use. Scientists are solely starting to grasp how they’re impacting our well being — and what to do about them. {Photograph} by @grantcornett.
Prop stylist @noemibonazzi.

August 24, 2023

Supply: instagram

DWR coating – the nice (PFAS free)

DWR coating, inducing water repelling properties used to make use of and generally nonetheless does use the so referred to as perpetually chemical compounds (PFAS). Nonetheless, there is no such thing as a a transition to take away it from the formulation. Usually which means much less water repellency.

Patagonia has a reasonably good explainer that there are extra variants of those perpetually chemical compounds and lists perfluorocarbons, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, PFOS, PFOA). Additionally it is attention-grabbing how they quote that the analysis has superior and initially included long-chain (C8) fluorocarbon based mostly molecules as harmful and later expanded to shorter chain (C6) as nicely. Supply: Patagonia.

I briefly regarded into what the non-PFAS or non-PFC DWR coating is manufactured from. The sport seems to be to design as even and non-porous floor as attainable to be able to forestall water from sticking onto it. Among the approaches are to make use of wax (reminding of the waxed cotton barbour jackets) or to make use of silicon (which derives from sand) nano-particles. Some extra superior concept will be discovered right here: paper.

DWR coating – the dangerous (with PFAS)

On the flipside, there are nonetheless loads of waterproof clothes, lined with DWRs which use PFAS. And that may be a threat.

What’s PFAS chemically?

PFAS are molecules manufactured from bonds of fluorine (very harmful) and carbon (constructing block of all issues residing). They’re among the most sturdy molecules identified and might take 1000’s of years to interrupt down naturally or want 1000C+ to be incinerated (p6, source).

How does PFAS attain the human physique?

The PFAS molecules from DWR coatings on garments leach into the water and soil. This attention-grabbing however complicated paper (p7) estimates {that a} single DWR coated nylon waterproof jacket incorporates round approx. 1.5g of PFAS(*), all of which will get launched into the waste water in 400 wash cycles (so <4 mg per wash). From my understanding the washing launch declines with every subsequent wash, however that’s not the purpose – you definitely don’t wish to have these concentrations of PFAS in your ingesting water. And based on the identical paper, round 5% of what will get launched recycles again to the water provide, with a lot of the the rest being launched again into soil after which simply migrating again into floor water (p7, source).

Thus we find yourself getting these compounds again by means of our ingesting water. (Is bottled water safer? – subject for one more submit).

Not less than it appears that evidently purely touching DWRs has quite a bit decrease PFAS publicity – 700 occasions lower than by means of washing (p6).

What are the well being risks with PFAS?

Now for the hazards of PFAS. I used to be not conscious however the preliminary proof comes from a 70k individuals examine utilized in a lawsuit in opposition to DuPont and associated to C8 (PFOA) compound, one among <5000 PFAS molecules. It is a direct quote from their website:

“there’s a Possible Hyperlink between publicity to C-8 and the next Human Illnesses.

  1. pregnancy-induced hypertension (together with preeclampsia),

  2. kidney most cancers,

  3. testicular most cancers,

  4. thyroid illness,

  5. ulcerative colitis, and

  6. excessive ldl cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia).”

Why DuPont? PFAS are a core constructing block of supplies referred to as Teflon (or PTFE) (assume non-stick pan coating – one other subject for a submit). DuPont owns rights to the Teflon model title and the underlying PTFE materials itself really has a $2-3bn annual market dimension. The lawsuit associated to employees and folks across the manufacturing plant.

The talked about examine pertains to solely one of many molecules out of ~5k, however the increasing research appears to indicate that different PFAS molecule varieties additionally end in elevated well being threat.

At which PFAS concentrations are we within the hazard zone?

Primarily based on principally rat research, a generalised measurement can assume that wherever from the degrees of 0.001 mg/kg/day publicity the hazard zone kicks in (information beneath is for one particular molecule – PFOS). The publicity limits are very various for various molecules on this household, so let’s deal with PFOS for this illustration.

Supply: paper

Extrapolating animal information for people, for a mean European of 70kg, the damaging publicity ranges begin at 0.070 mg/day for PFOS.

See Also

DWR washes into water, which we then drink. So how a lot of it’s there?

To this point research discovered PFOS in ingesting water within the US for up to 12 ng/L and in China for up to 10 ng/L (Shenzhen and Guangzhou). Thus it’s nonetheless fairly vast off the mark for harmful publicity of 0.070 mg a day (=70,000 ng a day). To achieve that degree one would wish to drink 7000 litres a day.

Value stressing that that is based mostly on animal information and is for under one of many harmful compounds, which can be one of the vital underneath management.

There may be additionally the danger of publicity by means of accumulation – the place ingesting solely small quantities over time will add up in our blood, because it takes years to clear it from the blood.

So why the fear about PFAS generally?

The PFAS molecules are worrisome as a result of they’re so indestructable, they’re even referred to as “perpetually compounds”. They have an inclination to build up within the setting, soil and water, thus if the trade shouldn’t be managed, there’s threat of reaching these harmful ranges by means of accumulation.

On the flipside, the physique is outwardly capable of clear it out from the blood over time if the publicity is restricted. The info from the US reveals, that altering the trade habits, led to a dicrease of PFOS within the inhabitants – though that course of takes years.

Sure communities will be at a lot increased exposures for these chemical compounds although.

Supply: CDC

TLDR & abstract on DWR and PFAS:

  1. DWRs of previous and nonetheless many right this moment include harmful molecules referred to as PFAS.

  2. PFAS molecules take as much as 1000s of years to disintegrate naturally and accumulate within the water provide and later human blood.

  3. There are as much as 5k completely different chemical variants of PFAS molecules, with differing publicity limits and well being dangers.

  4. It’s confirmed that publicity over time to variants of PFAS molecules results in quite a few very harmful well being dangers.

  5. Washing a DWR coated with PFAS jacket can launch a number of mg of PFAS molecules into the waste water.

  6. The PFAS after washing journey to water therapy vegetation the place filtration occurs into sludge, however shortly migrate into soil later.

  7. The PFAS compounds are extraordinarily laborious to utterly destroy as burning them shouldn’t be simple.

  8. Our faucet water provide (in US and China) to date appears to include PFAS 1000s of occasions beneath the damaging limits of publicity. This may be completely different in excessive threat areas. No clear information for Europe was discovered.

  9. I believe it’s nonetheless necessary to manage the buildup of those PFAS / perpetually molecules for the long run.

  10. Dangers not talked about right here: publicity to PFAS by means of non-water routes, equivalent to fish, cosmetrics or non-stick pans; PFAS threat to the ecosystem and nature in addition to people.

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