By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 2:53 PM

            The toxic chemicals that are used in the manufacturing and production of textiles are often less recognized than the toxic chemicals that are present in our food and water. But these toxins are just as important. Every person wears some form of clothing every day, which exposes them to a multitude of various toxic chemicals that are harmful to both humans and the environment. Awareness of the negative effects of these toxins has been increasing over the years, which has led to the search for less harmful and more sustainable alternatives to the processes and products that are used to manufacture and produce textiles. One particular group of chemicals that has gained attention over the years is perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFCs are used in the manufacturing and production of many products, such as food packaging and clothing. Specifically, PFCs have the ability to make a product resistant to oil, stain, and water. This makes the usage of PFCs as a water-proofing agent extremely effective for outdoor apparel. One of the most popular brands of water-proof fabrics to utilize the properties of PFCs is Gore-tex, which first appeared during the 1970s when it became commercially available on many products being sold by companies such as Columbia Sportswear.

            So what is the problem with PFCs? Some PFCs bio-accumulate in humans and the environment and do not degrade by natural processes. This means that they remain in the environment as persistent organic pollutants and act as greenhouse gases. Studies show that PFCs are present in the wastewater from PFC manufacturing plants and drinking water near PFC manufacturing plants in multiple states. Data from these studies have indicated that PFCs can cause several types of tumors and neonatal death, as well as toxic effects on the immune, liver, and endocrine systems of mammals, fish, and bird wildlife. While PFCs have been produced, used, and disposed of without regulation for the last sixty years, new regulations are being implemented to reduce their impact on the environment. Numerous investigations by the EU and EPA have been conducted that address the negative impact that PFCs have on the environment, though the relationship between PFCs and human health effects are still fully unknown.

Figure 1: Global PFC emissions by world region (1970-2005).
click image to enlarge)

Figure 2: PFCs in women ages 16-49 years (1999-2008).
(click image to enlarge)

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