H&M, a popular Swedish-based clothing retailer, recently announced a plan to ban Perfluorinated Compounds, commonly known as PFCs, across its supply chain by January 2013.
So what are PFCs? They’re global contaminants that are typically regarded as modern miracles. PFCs are a family of chemical substances that are often used in the industry because of their heat-stable properties. They are manufactured in computers, cosmetics, and household cleaners, among a large variety of other goods. In H&M’s case, the PFCs are used to achieve water repellent function manly on outerwear garments. You know how rain just rolls right off raincoats? That’s because of PFCs.
But the magic of PFCs comes at a price. They are harmful for the environment, for reproduction and for aquatic organisms. According to the Environmental Working Group, scientific studies have shown that these highly toxic chemicals contaminate human blood and wildlife. Even more concerning is that unlike any other toxic chemicals, the most pervasive and toxic members of the PFC family never degrade in the environment.
Harvard School of Public Health released a press statement earlier this year on a study associated with PFCs. The study, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that PFCs were associated with lowered immune response to vaccinations in children. Philippe Grandjean, the study lead author, explained how the “negative impact on childhood vaccinations from PFCs should be viewed as a potential threat to public health.” Exposures to these chemicals were associated with lower antibody responses to immunizations.
For some time, H&M has been involved in an eco-friendly initiative, and the ban on PFCs is another step in the process. Since 1995, the retail company has been working to reduce the use and impact of hazardous chemicals. According to the company website, which has a huge section focusing on sustainability efforts, H&M has a commitment to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals. The company states that with the help of Chemical Restrictions, more than 30,000 chemical tests were carried out in 2011 in the development of its chemical restrictions policy.
With 2,600 companies worldwide, H&M will use an alternative that has good environmental and health properties, according to a press release by the company. The alternative can be used on all present fabric qualities used by H&M.