What is it?
Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS or PFC) are fluorocarbon connections that possess unique water and fat rejecting properties, and because of this, they are frequently found in DWR (Durable Water Resistance) treatments used on outdoor clothing. It is a distinction between long-chain fluorocarbons (C8 and higher) and short fluorocarbons (C6 and lower). Among the long chain fluorocarbons, you find PFOA and PFOS that have been shown to pose a considerable environmental threat. Norrøna removed all long-chain fluorocarbons from our products several years ago, and we did it before the legal demand in 2013. The shorter fluorocarbons show less toxicity but they are still classified as persistent.
Why does Norrøna use short-chain PFAS (PFC) in our shell clothing
Norrøna still uses short chain fluorocarbon (C6) in our shell products. We are aware of the potential environmental hazard PFAS pose, and we are working determinately to phase out PFAS from our products. DWR treatment containing PFAS have received criticism lately, and we can understand why. However, we have yet to find an alternative that satisfies our quality demands. Both Norrøna and our main vendor Gore-Tex are working on alternatives, and we are continuously testing the available options. Gore-tex has chosen to invest USD 15 million to research related to this subject. Independently Norrøna has several test runs going to find a viable option to the C6 DWR. Our cotton jackets and pants, insulation jackets and windproof jackets are treated with a PFAS-free DWR, but these products do not have the same demands to waterproofness as our shell clothing does.
So why do Norrøna continue to use PFAS?
DWR treatment is crucial for the waterproof properties of shell clothing. The DWR prevents wear and tear of the membrane, and it prevents dirt and fat to accumulate in the fabric. Dirt and fat will deteriorate the performance of the garment. The worst case is that the outer fabric and the membrane delaminate (the glue holding the layers together is dissolved), and as a result, the waterproofness will deteriorate considerably. Because of this DWR is an important component to ensure the highest quality and a long lifetime for our products. Norrøna is of the opinion that the highest quality and a long lifetime are essential to reduce the environmental footprint of our products. It is better that you use a jacket for several years than buy a new one every year.
Another aspect of PFAS is that outdoor garment producers represent a small fraction of the total use. The outdoor industry is also aware of the problem, and most brands are working to phase out fluorocarbons. Independent research (SWEREA research report produced on behalf of the Swedish Government) show that DWR treatment of leather and textile represent less than 5% of the total usage of PFAS. But as Norrøna still acknowledge the issue, and we are working determinately to phase out PFAS from our products.
Is Norrøna going to stop using PFAS (PFC) in the future?
Norrøna has made a commitment to phase out PFAS from our products by the end of 2020 and in 2018 69 % of our proucts with DWR are PFC-free. You can find this goal and our other CSR goals on this page.