Hazardous Chemicals in Outdoor Clothing

Elkline has been aware of the problem for a long time and took decisive action

It’s official now: According to a soon to be published study from the Robert-Koch Institute, a German government agency, substances used in the production of plastics can be found in the bodies of almost all German children. [1] Many of these substances are deemed serious health hazards. Perfluoroctanacids, a substance used for waterproofing functional garments, and other chemicals from the PFC group of substances, are of a particular concern. PFCs have proven to be carcinogenic in laboratory animals, as well as causing damage to their reproductive system. The hazardous effects of these chemicals are alarming to a point that the EU will outlaw them come 2020.

We at Elkline feel we need to weigh in here, because, after all, we are manufacturing and selling, among other products, outdoor clothing with waterproof features. The problems surrounding PFC chemicals have been known to us since the year 2011. And we have started looking for alternatives to this substance group the moment we became aware of its hazardous nature. This is not about us saying I-told-you-so, but simply about having strong convictions when it comes to all matters ecological. In short: less talk, more action.

Elkline “instinct” jacket. Elkline products are free of PFC since 2011.

Elkline “instinct” jacket. Elkline products are free of PFC since 2011.

The first thing we asked ourselves was: How can we better manage, even totally avoid, the use of chemicals that have a proven detrimental effect on human beings? Elkline then quickly recognized that our waterproof/waterrepellent jackets that used PFC substances were the main challenge here.

We started out asking ourselves what the requirements were that a functional garment has to fulfill under normal conditions, and precisely what degree of weather proofing is actually necessary. Since Elkline garments are not designed for work on offshore oil rigs, we figured it would surely be enough if our products keep the wind and rain out, and keep you warm and comfy when outdoors. So, the Elkline motto was born: “As few chemicals as possible, and just enough as absolutely necessary.”

In the year 2011, since PFC technology became a definite no-no for Elkline products, we started our search for an ecologically responsible alternative. It was then that we came across a manufacturing partner who did extensive research on PFC-free technologies based on the waterrepellent features of marine bird feathers. A technically viable solution was soon implemented, using highly complex polymers similar to those that might be found in nature. The result was BIONIC-FINISH ECO equipment that was free of PFCs and paraffin, and that has found its way into Elkline’s product range as early as the 2013 Spring/Summer collection.

From then on, we kept our waterproof/waterrepellent 100% PFC-free, and, of course, we are continuing to subject all materials and substances our products are manufactured from under very close scrutiny. This results in an increasing use of recycled materials, as well as ever more rigorous certification processes along the manufacturing chain, and, of course, in using organic cotton whenever we possibly can.

We at Elkline have always, and from the very day we started the company, felt very strongly about the environment. We are convinced that the term “sustainability” is not a mere buzzword, but a concept that needs to be embraced and lived by as many people as possible as soon as possible. This goes for companies of all sizes as well. Because if we fail to do so, we are set to systematically poison and drown ourselves. This may sound like alarmism, but it becomes increasingly clear for all to see. And, please, do not fall into the trap of thinking that a single big effort, some magic comprehensive solution will absolve us of our individual responsibility. The only thing that would actually have any effect at all would be, if we, all of us, start acting now: with small, but infinitely many steps towards sustainability! (Sorry, if this may sound a little on the severe side. But if you stop and think about what the actual stakes are here, a bit of passion may very well be justified...)

Your Elkline Team

[1] Article in Spiegel-Online (German) from week 37 in 2019: https://www.spiegel.de/gesundheit/schwangerschaft/weichmacher-und-pfoa-fast-alle-kinder-mit-gesundheitskritischen-chemikalien-belastet-a-1286708.html