H&M have announced that from the 1st of January 2013 they will ban Perfluorinated Compounds from any products that they sell (PFCs).
PFCs are used to achieve the water repellent finish mainly found on outer wear garments, but also on shower curtains, tents, etc. PFCs are harmful for the environment, for reproduction and for aquatic organisms. Worryingly:
‘PFCs can be detected almost ubiquitously, e.g., in water, plants, different kinds of foodstuffs, in animals such as fish, birds, in mammals, as well as in human breast milk and blood. PFCs are proposed as a new class of ‘persistent organic pollutants’. Numerous publications allude to the negative effects of PFCs on human health’ (Stahl, T. 2011).
It is all too easy to forget that the textile industry is a major environmental polluter globally. For example during the dyeing process an average t-shirt will use 16-20 litres of water and whilst 80% of the dye is retained by the fabric, the rest is washed out.
H&M teamed up with other fashion and sport brands in 2011 to help lead the industry to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals. As a brand, they have since worked on restricting and phasing out perfluorinated substances. H&M is also a part of AFIRM, an international working team of leading companies within the textile and footwear industries, educating the suppliers to achieve good chemical management. The group’s common aim is to reduce the use and impact of harmful substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain.
Read their most recent sustainability report at: www.hm.com/consciousactions2011
Scientists amongst you might want to read this article from the Environmental Sciences Europe Open Access journal. Stahl, T. et al. ‘Toxicology of Perfluorinated Compounds’, 2011, 23:38