Our response: a good, long-lasting solution
Chemicals that contain PFAS are used in a treatment that makes the surface of fabrics enduringly dirt and water-repellent. The treatment is described as Durable Water Repellent finish (DWR), and means that water and dirt bounces off the fabric rather than being absorbed by the fabric and making it wet and dirty. This has been an important and effective treatment of waterproof fabrics for more than 30 years. Bergans is working continuously to find a suitable replacement for DWR treatment containing PFAS, which adds long-lasting functionality to the products. A significant part of the challenge lies in the very word "long-lasting". We call it WR as the PFAS-free treatment is not as durable.
A preliminary solution to phase out PFAS with proven damaging properties (eg. PFOA) is that we since 2014 has made use of a treatment with a shorter fluorocarbon chain (C6 instead of C8). However, we emphasize this as a provisional solution. We are persistently testing new treatments to find an adequate replacement. It is our goal to offer products that have been subject to PFAS-free DWR treatment by 2020, and we have started to phase in PFAS-free WR on some products:
- Waterproof textiles have a membrane. DWR on the face fabric is the first barrier for preventing water from penetrating the fabric. Once the face fabric becomes soaked through, the user will feel damp and cold, and barely any moisture will be expelled through the membrane. DWR with C6 function prolongs the period before the user begins to feel damp and cold. PFAS-free keeps the user dry, but the garments often become wet and heavy and need a long time to dry out.
- Softshell garments are without membrane, but PFAS-free WR give the product water-repellent properties. These properties will deteriorate after a period of use, but the garment can easily be washed and impregnated with “wash-in”.
The challenge is that the active life of these products can be reduced and consumers will have to procure new garments more frequently. Reimpregnation: it is easier to achieve a good result on products without a membrane (softshell type), which can be treated with “wash-in” in the washing machine. This involves fewer chemicals and less work. With regard to spray impregnation, the surface has a big impact on the result. It must be able to absorb impregnation in order to have an effect. When a product is difficult to impregnate, the customer will not see it as a viable solution, and the product will be rendered useless and discarded before it is worn out since it does not maintain its functionality. This in turns increases environmental impact.
We therefore believe it is crucial to identify an alternative DWR treatment that gives our waterproof garments and skiwear long-lasting and adequate functionality. It must also be demonstrably more environmentally and health-friendly.
This is what Bergans is doing now:
- We are phasing in PFAS-free WR on shell and softshell garments where we believe it will have good functionality.
- We maintain stringent control over the chemicals used in the production of our products. In being a bluesign® system partner we demand that our products meet the most stringent chemical requirements in the market, which, in many cases, exceed existing legal requirements.
- We do not use any membranes that contain PTFE.
- PFOA and PFOS that were proven to be harmful were phased out early (2014) from Bergans' DWR treatment.
- We perform thorough tests of all alternative DWR treatments as they develop, to prevent these resulting in other negative environmental consequences.
NO BERGANS PRODUCTS ARE HAZARDOUS TO USE
Environmental/health hazards occur only if/when substances accumulate in nature over a period of time.
ALL STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS MET
Norway has very strict requirements regarding the use of chemicals in clothing. All tests performed on Bergans products, both internally and externally, indicate that we fall well within all statutory requirements.