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PFC in outdoor products

PFCs are perfluorinated chemicals and are often used in outdoor gear to impart water repellency to textiles. The DWR (durable water repellency) treatments in which they are used are crucial to prevent fabric saturation. This keeps waterproof membranes working the way they should and ensures users stay dry. ARC’TERYX applies high performance DWR treatments in order to achieve the pinnacle garment function that our users demand. Below we summarize how we manage DWR, PFCs and their effect on garment lifecycle impact.

In 2014, ARC’TERYX completed our transition away from a previous generation of PFCs, broadly referred to as C8 or long-chain fluorocarbons, to a newer generation referred to as C6 or short-chain. C8 DWR treatments contained a contaminant called PFOA which had a range of potential health and environmental concerns. These concerns led to a 2006 agreement between the US EPA and 8 of the largest PFC producers globally, in which they agreed to phase out PFOA production and create replacements such as C6. ARC’TERYX now exclusively uses C6 PFCs. To do this, we actively manage our DWR suppliers to ensure absence of C8 treatments and specifically PFOA. To accomplish this we use tools developed in collaboration with the Outdoor Industry Association’s Chemicals Management Working Group, on whose steering committee we sit. In addition, as a bluesign® system partner we rely on bluesign® certification as an external validation of textile and chemical safety. This approach addresses the most concerning materials and effects related to PFC chemistry while allowing us to maintain pinnacle performance for our products.

While C6 DWR treatments still have a degree of ecotoxicity concerns, these are at a vastly lower scale than their C8 predecessors. So far we have not found any non-PFC alternatives that meet our performance or durability requirements. Ongoing, ARC’TERYX continues to test and research a range of non-fluorinated, non-PFC DWR treatments, with the ultimate goal being to continually reduce the environmental impact across the full product lifecycle, while delivering the performance and product lifespan that meet our brand standards.

Garment sustainability is complex, our goal is to increase product lifespan. We strive to make product solutions that last and perform at the highest levels for as long as possible.

Reference links:

US EPA PFOA Stewardship Program

Outdoor Industry Association: Chemical Management