How Bergans works with the PFAS challenge
In Bergans we live by and for nature and recognize the unfortunate effects the use of PFAS chemicals causes for nature and people. We fully support the planned ban on such substances, although we realize that it will impact the functionality and durability on some of our products. Our goal is to be 100 % free of PFAS substances by 2025, at the latest. We are continuously working on finding suitable replacements.
If you want to read more about what PFAS is and why it is harmful, please scroll down to the last part of this article.
First of all:
There is no risk using your products. We want to emphasize that all existing garments treated with PFAS should be used and stay in the lifecycle as long as possible, according to our Long Live the Product philosophy. The main problem and risk are the globally high concentrations of PFAS in nature.
Why is PFAS harmful?
PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is a group of more than 5.000 substances also known as fluorocarbons. They build up in nature as they do not degrade naturally. In greater concentrations, they are proven to pose a hazard to both human health and the environment.
What kind of products contain PFAS and why?
Waterproof products use fabrics with a membrane to make them waterproof. In addition, they have a water repellent function on top of the outer fabric.
Therefore, we are especially focusing on our waterproof products, also known as hard-shell products: PFAS-free impregnation treatments also make the fabrics water repellent, but this function is not as durable as with treatments containing PFAS. Therefore, the perceived water-repellent functionality will not be as strong and visible as they used to, and you won’t see the roll-off of water droplets like before. That’s the reason why we call these treatments WR (Water repellency) and not any longer DWR (Durable Water Repellency).
Then what about our non-waterproof outer garments?
Most of these products, also known as softshell products, are already PFAS free. The water-repellent properties of these fabrics will decrease after a period of use. If needed, they can be easily re-impregnated using a wash-in product (see below).
How to retain waterproofness in the future?
As the PFAS-free water repellency is less durable, we see the need for garments to be re-impregnated if the water-repellent function is decreased. Re-impregnation should not be necessary until after some washing and use. All new waterproof garments are impregnated from fabric suppliers, even with a lower function and therefore a reduced roll-off effect of the water droplets, compared to previous impregnation (containing PFAS). The membrane is as waterproof as before, even if the outer fabric will appear wet.
- , we recommend TOKO Eco spray impregnation (PFAS free!) to re-impregnate your garment after washing and use. Do not use wash-in as this can damage the function of the membrane. www.toko.ch
- can easily be washed and impregnated with “wash-in”. www.toko.ch
What is Bergans doing now?
- We have already phased in PFAS-free WR on many products, like softshell, down, or urban everyday clothing.
- We are phasing in PFAS-free WR on all our waterproof garments, dependent on the feasibility and availability of good and more sustainable solutions that fit fabric properties.
- 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 PFAS, as for example PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) membranes.
- We perform thorough tests of all alternative WR treatments during product development.
- Ensure raindrops from the outside are not coming through to the inside (=waterproof)
- Ensure sweat (=moisture vapor) is pushed from the inside of the garment to the outside (=breathable)
What is PFAS?
Chemicals that contain PFAS are often used in a treatment that makes the surface of fabrics water-repellent. The treatment is described as Durable Water Repellent finish (DWR) and means that water bounces off the surface rather than being absorbed by the fabric and making it wet. This has been an effective treatment to achieve a durable water repellency for waterproof fabrics, but also other applications like ski waxes or food packaging.
Since these chemicals have shown to be harmful for both people and the environment, Bergans is working to phase out all fabrics containing PFAS finish and replace with more environmentally friendly, PFAS-free treatments. A significant part of the challenge lies in the lower durability of these water repellent solutions.
How is a waterproof fabric constructed and where do we find the water repellent function?
The outer layer (= face fabric) is treated with a water repellent finish. This is the initial finish done by the fabric supplier. Function of this finish is to ensure raindrops are repelling from the face fabric.
What about the membrane?
The membrane is an additional layer and is placed between the face fabric and a backing fabric (for 3L fabric). A membrane has two functions: