PFAS are a family of manmade chemicals that many different industries have used widely for decades. Though useful for a variety of applications, there’s more and more research coming out that shows PFAS have both environmental and health risks.
Many outdoor brands—Storm Creek included—are actively phasing these chemicals from our products and researching other solutions.
What PFAS Are and How They’re Used
“PFAS” is an acronym that stands for a large family of substances that scientists developed starting in the 1930s and 40s and have been used in various industries ever since. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl are two of the most common of these manmade chemicals.
They are, in a nutshell, a chain of carbon atoms with specific configurations.
Items like nonstick cookware, food packaging, fire fighting foams, footwear, leather and carpets have all used PFAS because of their water and stain-repelling properties. They’ve been valued in the apparel industry for the way they make fabrics water and stain-resistant while still being breathable and durable.
Why Raise the Alarm
PFAS molecules are very stable in the environments they’ve been designed for. But this stability has caused unexpected consequences. Researchers found it takes decades, maybe even centuries, for PFAS to break down.
Not only that, peer-reviewed scientific studies are finding that certain PFAS may have health risks with high exposure. And exposure is everywhere: in drinking water, soil, food, household products, the workplace…worldwide.
The EPA has found “exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to…decreased fertility and increased high blood pressure in pregnant women, developmental effects or delays in children…increased risk of some cancers…reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections” and more.
Part of the difficulty lies in the vast number of PFAS out there (scientists have developed some 12,000 different molecules), and what is still unknown about most of them. It’s serious enough, though, that at least one scientific paper is calling for eliminating the use of all non-essential PFAS (essential PFAS use includes things like firefighting foams).
Our Plan to Eliminate PFAS from Storm Creek Apparel
Until March 2023, Storm Creek products have contained C6, a PFAS chemical, in our water-repellent fabrics. We’ve always complied with US federal regulations, but the regulations have since been tightened. And for good reason.
We’ve been going through a vigorous testing process to convert our fabrics to a technology that doesn’t include PFAS. We’re starting to manufacture these fabrics and have transitioned all of our items to be PFAS-free.
As this article from Patagonia points out, the challenge for us and other outdoor apparel companies is to find new ways to manufacture durable water-repellant fabrics (like rain jackets) that work in the field and are safe for both our environment and for people.
Our new, PFAS-free fabric, will have a dull finish pictured above.
What You Can Do about PFAS
It appears that items with PFAS are relatively safe when used properly, for example in cookware and water-resistant apparel. It’s the leaching into our soils and water through waste sites, biosolids and other processes that are the problem.
These molecules in the soil and water eventually make their way into both the plant and animal foods we eat. They can also be in dust and in the air around us.
Certain states like California, Colorado, New York, Minnesota and more passed state laws that ban or restrict the use of PFAS in items like food packaging effective January 1, 2024.
The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) suggests taking these steps to reduce your risk of harm from these chemicals:
- Have your drinking water tested, whether city water or private well. If your home’s water contains a high level of PFAS, consider buying an in-home water treatment filter that’s certified to lower the levels.
- The EPA publishes a list of contacts to be sure any fish you eat comes from waterways without PFAS contamination.
- Be an informed consumer: Don’t buy new products that contain PFAS. Buy from brands that are actively reducing and eliminating these types of molecules from their manufacturing.
- For more information on how to protect yourself and your family from PFAS, go to this page on the EPA’s website and research the links included.
Storm Creek and other responsible manufacturers are working hard to research better, safer technology to use in the high-quality apparel our customers expect.