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What about PFC?

PFC chemicals are used for water repellent impregnations. In this blog you will learn what PFC's actually are, why they are harmful to humans, how they get into nature, what alternatives there are and how ROTAUF deals with impregnations.

What are PFC's?

The following video from the German TV station WDR explains very well what PFC's are: 


Are PFC’s harmful to humans?

The simple answer is yes. PFC chemicals can cause the following diseases and problems in humans: 

  • Increased risk of developing kidney cancer or testicular cancer. [3]

  • Decreases the effectiveness of common vaccinations in children. [4]

  • Interferes with adolescent development during puberty. [5]

  • Disrupts natural hormone levels in children. [6]

  • Can trigger premature births. [7]

This is only an excerpt. There are many more studies on the negative effects of PFC chemicals on humans and the environment. 

How do PFC's get from outdoor clothing into the nature?

The majority of the various PFC chemicals are used for water repellent impregnations. When these clothes are washed, the PFC's get into the waste water. Our wastewater treatment plants cannot break down the PFC chemicals. [8]

So they remain in the water that is discharged from the sewage treatment plant into the natural waters in the rivers. From there, the PFC chemicals then enter the groundwater and thus our drinking water. The following map shows the PFC contamination of various groundwater reservoirs in Switzerland. [9]

Odoo CMS - a big picture

Are there alternatives to PFC-containing impregnations?

Yes, there are! A 2018 study also showed that PFC-free impregnations perform exactly the same as their dangerous, PFC-containing relatives in terms of water repellency [10]. 

Basically, PFC alternatives can be divided into three groups [11]: 

  • Paraffin (wax)

  • Silicone

  • Dendrimer

However, not all of these alternatives are truly environmentally friendly. Silicones, while less hazardous to humans than PFC chemicals, can be dangerous to workers during factory application. In addition, silicones can have a negative impact on aquatic life and are also poorly degradable in nature. Dendrimers are the newest type of PFC-free, water-repellent impregnations. These are very powerful, but little research has been done on them. We do not know at this time if these chemicals are harmful to humans or the environment. More research is needed on this. By far the best for the environment are the paraffins. Wax is safe for both humans and nature. [11] However, these PFC-free alternatives have their pitfalls. For one thing, the same impregnation has completely different performance values on different fabrics and colors. Secondly, PFC-free impregnations are much more difficult to apply to fabrics. The exact composition of the impregnating agent and the machine settings have to be adjusted differently for each individual color. This is an enormous effort for our finishing partners like Cilander AG, Toray Sakai or G-Fun and means higher costs for us - a price we are happy to pay. 

Odoo CMS - a big picture

Impregnations at ROTAUF

ROTAUF completely avoids the use of PFC-containing impregnations. For products that do not necessarily require water-repellent function, we even omit them completely. Whenever possible, we use paraffin-based impregnations. Only in exceptional cases, when paraffin-based impregnations do not meet our performance standards, we use urethane-based dendrimers. 

We use the following impregnations:

Merino Series-none-
Patgific Series-none-
Insulation SeriesHuntsman Zelan R3*Dendrimer
Ultralight JacketRudolph ChemieBionic Finish EcoParaffin
Tour JacketRudolph ChemieBionic Finish EcoParaffin
Freetour PantsRudolph ChemieBionic Finish EcoParaffin

*Zelan R3 impregnation is obtained from 60% natural raw materials and is considered particularly sustainable [12]. This is why it is used at ROTAUF. Nevertheless, the data on the environmental compatibility of this impregnation is still insufficient at the moment - we are staying tuned and closely monitoring new research results. 

    Odoo CMS - a big picture


                [1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemisches_Element, last visited at: 06.02.2021.

                [2] Santen, Manfred; Kallee, Ulrike: Chemie für Gifpelstürmer. (Greenpeace untersucht Outdoor-Kleidung auf fluorierte Schadstoffe.) Hamburg: Greenpeace e.V., 2013. 

                [3] Barry, Vaughn et al.: Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Exposures and Incident Cancers among Adults Living Near a Chemical Plant. In: Environmental Health Perspectives, 121, 2013, S. 1313 - 1318. 

                [4] Grandjean P, Andersen EW, Budtz-Jørgensen E, et al.: Serum Vaccine Antibody Concentrations in Children Exposed to Perfluorinated Compounds. In: JAMA, 307, 2012, S. 391-397. 

                [5] Lopez-Espinosa, Maria-Jose et al.: Association of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) with Age of Puberty among Children Living near a Chemical Plant. In: Environmental Science & Technology, 45, 2011, S. 8160-8166.

                [6] Lopez-Espinosa, Maria-Jose et al.: Thyroid Function and Perfluoroalkyl Acids in Children Living Near a Chemical Plant. In: Environmental Health Perspectives, 120, 2012, S. 1036-1041

                [7] Savitz, David et al.: Relationship of Perfluorooctanoic Acid Exposure to Pregnancy Outcome Based on Birth Records in the Mid-Ohio Valley. In: Environmental Health Perspectives, 120, 2012, S. 1201-1207.

                [8] Biegel-Engel, Annegret et al.: Mitteilung des Umweltbundesamtes zu per- und polyfluorierten Chemiaklien (PFC) in Trinkwasser. Dessau-Rosslau: Umweltbundesamt Deutschland, 2017.

                [9] Reinhardt, Miram: Perfluorierte Chemikalien im Grundwasser. In: gwa, 2010/2011, 2010, S. 967-978. 

                [10] Scehllenberger, Stefan et al: Highly fluorinated chemicals in functional textiles can be replaced by re-evaluating liquid repellency and end-user requirements. In: Journal of Cleaner Production, 217, 2019, S. 134-143. 

                [11] Holmquist, H. et al: Properties, performance and associated hazards of state-of-the-art durable water repellent (DWR) chemistry for textile finishing. In: Environmental International, 91, 2016, S. 251-264.

                [12] https://www.huntsman.com/products/detail/366/zelan-r3, last visited at: 06.02.2021.

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