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German Environment Agency Aims to Limit Chemicals in Waterproof Apparel

The German Federal Environment Agency, Umwelt Bundesamt (UBA), is calling for stricter regulations on perfluoroalkyl- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) after it found high levels of the chemicals in 15 independently tested outdoor jackets. The substances are widely used in outdoor and athletic apparel for its water- and stain-resistant qualities, however, some are proven to be toxic for reproduction and endanger the environment.

According to UBA, waste water treatment facilities cannot degrade these chemicals. As a result, they are released into rivers, seas and underground water, and can accumulate in the bodies of humans and animals. PFASs can also be transported through air.

UBA president Maria Krautzberger, said, “The waterproofing agents unfortunately do not stay in the jackets and instead evaporate into the air or are channeled to waste water treatment plants as a result of washing, from where they enter water bodies. Although the jackets release relatively low levels of PFASs to the environment compared to other sources, the question remains whether this type of waterproofing is necessary.”

She added, “Customers should first consider just how waterproof or stain-resistant their garment really needs to be.”

While none of the jackets exceed the limit permitted by the German government, UBA stresses the importance of keeping the substances controlled. It has already proposed the registration of six PFASs on the REACH Candidate List, which highlights substances of very high concern, and it recommends the limitation of PFASs imports.