Olivia, this is a great perspective. I think that the research has evolved so quickly, and the legislation and restrictions alongside, that there have been little pockets of research stemming from different companies. Now, as the challenge to find fluorine-free alternatives continue, I think large companies are increasingly becoming aware of the need to collaborate, particularly with research centres. As this thread shows, there are many areas of this topic which require further research as a whole.
To name some beside Swerea(performance and substitution research) we have Amsterdam University (toxicology) , Århus University (human monitoring), Stockholm University(environmental fate/modelling), Trondheim NILU (analytical reference research), DTU Copenhagen (Analytical research food packagaing).
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Saskia, just to add to this, following a discussion with my supervisor this morning. The School of Design, where I am based, openly welcomes any support and collaboration from the industry, or other academic institutions, on further research into this subject area - they should be directed to Dr Blackburn.
The only thing I have seen is a textile coating ("Greenshield") that mimics the microstructures on the lotus leaf. But here's the kicker, the lotus-inspired coating is made from perfluorinated chemistry. It achieves amazing water repellence with a much smaller amount of PFCs by leveraging the lotus-effect, but doesn't solve the need for alternative, less environmentally persistent materials. More biomimicry examples here http://www.asknature.org/search?category=default&query=self-cleaning
Blatant examples of over-application of PFASs are much easier to find in other industries, for example, use in non-durable products like cosmetics and ski-wax that transmit the chemicals readily into the environment during use. A less-known example of over-application is from my industry where perfluorinated stain-resistance has been applied to nylon carpet yarn for years under several well know brand names. Having water bead up on your carpet is a nice trick but resistance to acid-based stains is a must. Yarn that matches PFC performance for acid stain resistance without PFCs is readily available from most carpet mills in the US and Europe. It uses "sulfonation" or related technologies to permanently bind the "dye-sites" on the nylon that acid-based stains (or topically applied dyes) would normally bind to. These yarns are typically premium priced, but come standard from our company (Interface). Unfortunately, these processes are not readily applicable to apparel since carpet does not show oil-based stains the way more two-dimensional textiles do. Sulfonation, according to friends in the textile industry, does not help resist oil-based staining. Given the availability of integral stain resistance technologies, I would say use of PFCs on carpet fiber has become an example of over-application in the broader textile industry.
Chemical Watch: Global risk and regulation news
Columbia Sportswear introduces PFC-free rain jacket
Jacket's outer membrane removes need for DWR treatment
23 June 2016 / Alternatives assessment & substitution, Textiles & apparel, United States
Products - OutDry Extreme Eco Shell ©Columbia Sportswear
Editor, North America
US company Columbia Sportswear has developed what it calls the industry’s “first high-performance, environmentally friendly” rain jacket made without intentionally added perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).
In recent years, the outdoor industry has largelyconverted from long-chain (C8) to short-chain PFCs in durable water repellent (DWR) treatments. But many manufacturers have resisted calls from environmental groups to immediately move away from bioaccumulative fluorinated chemistries, saying that current alternatives do not offer adequate performance.
In a statement, Columbia said the issue of PFCs in rainwear was "an environmental problem that has been widely acknowledged by top brands in the industry, but none of them have been able to solve the issue without impacting performance, until now.”
The company’s OutDry Extreme ECO technology, available from spring 2017, uses a durable waterproof membrane that does not rely on an outer fabric layer treated with a topical coating of DWR.
An abrasion-resistant waterproof membrane has been placed on the outside of the garment, replacing the outer fabric layer. According to a company spokesperson, this removes the risk of the jacket “wetting out” like traditional rainwear does when the DWR wears off.
The jacket’s fabric is 100% recycled polyester. It is also not dyed, which the company says reduces the water, energy and chemical use in the manufacture process. It said the jacket’s technology took three years to develop.
Columbia says it is “very conscious” that while the new product gives the company a PFC-free alternative, “it does not solve the problem PFC issue entirely.” The company will continue to use short-chain PFCs in “a majority” of its waterproof products, it says.
Nor is Columbia the first brand to introduce a PFC-free rain jacket. UK brand Páramo Directional Clothing, for example, has eliminated PFCs from its supply chain, and signed up to Greenpeace’s Detox campaign.
But the company told Chemical Watch that the waxes, oils and silicones that may be used in place of a PFC-DWR “can be penetrated by oil, including lotions and oils from skin, and are very susceptible to wet out.” Because Columbia’s technology places the membrane on the outer layer of the garment, it does not require DWR to prevent wet-out. This results in higher performance than those using PFC-free DWR, it says.
When some manufacturers reference “PFC-free”, it added, they’re speaking only about the DWR treatment, which may not account for the fact that there are PFCs in the membrane.
Beth Jensen, director of sustainable business innovation at the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), said Columbia’s technology is “an excellent example of the re-thinking of the traditional product design process” that members of the organisation seek for transitioning away from PFCs.
The next steps, added Ms Jensen, will be to determine the scalability of the solution – such as costs, manufacturing capability and availability, and its compatibility with other types of products and performance requirements. “The industry is eager to implement less impactful solutions for the products’ waterproofing needs,” she said.
Mirjam Kopp, project leader for Greenpeace’s Detox Outdoor project, said Columbia's new product has “many great features” that represent a “first step from Columbia to tackle the issue of PFCs in their products and supply chain”.
But she said it is “proof that tech innovation to eliminate toxic chemicals, such as PFCs, is already available in the outdoor and textile sector”. Greenpeace has called on the company to catch up with frontrunners in the industry, like Páramo.
Columbia said it is its "challenge and opportunity to educate consumers about why PFC alternatives matter, and why it’s in our collective interests to pursue [alternative] solutions”.