The race to waterproof outdoor gear — without toxic chemicals


Patagonia Inc. has spent nearly a decade rejiggering its supply chain, redesigning products and dumping millions of dollars into a high-stakes trial-and-error process that’s nearly complete.

For the Ventura outdoor clothing retailer, this isn’t about optimizing for fashion.

Patagonia, like practically every other outdoor apparel company, has long relied on per- or polyfluorinated chemicals — PFAS for short — to make its products water-resistant.

The problem is that these chemicals, also known as fluorochemicals, PFC chemicals or forever chemicals, are toxic. They’ve been linked to cancer and other health problems and they don’t degrade easily: PFAS have been found in drinking water and in the human bloodstream.

Despite years of warnings from scientists and environmental activists, many apparel retailers only recently started sussing out how to ditch PFAS in outdoor apparel and gear. But the stragglers may not be able to straggle much longer: Bans on the chemicals are coming.

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Los Angeles Times, 20-02-23