Big retailer bans PFCs in clothing

PFCs are used as a water-repellant to protect against stains, usually on outer garments, shower curtains, tents and other fabrics that often encounter moisture.

by Mary Budinger —

Swedish retailer and fashion company H&M Group is pledging to stop the use of certain toxic chemicals. The company said it will no longer use perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in any items it buys after January 1, 2013.

PFCs are used as a water-repellant to protect against stains, usually on outer garments, shower curtains, tents and other fabrics that often encounter moisture. They have been shown to be toxic in laboratory animals and tend to accumulate in bodies over time, causing reproductive and developmental problems. Perfluorinated compounds are extremely resistant to biodegradation.

PFCs were recently singled out by Britian’s Institute of Science in Society as one of the 15 top obesogens in the world — chemicals that can make you fat. PFCs are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can disrupt appetite control, disturb fat-balancing mechanisms, increase the number or size of fat cells and cause heritable changes in gene function.

The H&M Group has already removed other problematic substances, including Azo dyes, short-chained chloroparaffins, chromium VI and phenols, such as pentachlorophenol, which is used as a pesticide and disinfectant. It has been the world’s largest user of organic cotton since 2010.

In March of 2012, Greenpeace put a spotlight on hazardous chemicals being flushed into water systems, especially during the first washing cycle, and H&M was among the high-profile companies targeted by the organization. Nike, Inc., Adidas® and PUMA®, also targeted by Greenpeace, took steps last year to adopt zero-discharge strategies.

Greenpeace’s investigative report, “Dirty Laundry,” profiles the problem of toxic water pollution resulting from the release of hazardous chemicals by the textile industry in China. The investigations focused on the discharge of hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties. Greenpeace uncovered links between these polluting facilities and a number of major clothing, fashion and sportswear brands — notably, the international brands that have products manufactured at facilities in China.

Sources: SustainableBusiness.com, www.i-sis.org.uk and Greenpeace International.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 1, February/March 2013.

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