19 July 2016

Outdoor sports gear stores harbour high ranges of PFCs in the air

A Greenpeace investigation has found levels of hazardous polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in indoor air of sports gear stores in Europe and Asia that is up to 1,000 times higher than streetside air. 

According to Greenpeace, different kinds of PFCs are used in a wide range of consumer products, including carpets, textiles and leather goods as well as in fire-fighting foam and paints. A number of studies have shown PFCs such as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) may have hormone disrupting properties that could impact both the reproductive system and the immune system of humans and animals. PFCs have also been implicated in cancers in humans.

Blueair, a mobile indoor air purification technologies provider, says the study provides yet more evidence of the surprising, often hidden dangers lurking in indoor air that endanger human health. “It is ironic that sports gear designed to help people stay healthy is helping to create toxic indoor environments that may make us sick by increasing our exposure to extremely high levels of airborne chemicals,” said Bengt Rittri, CEO of Blueair. The company's purification systems can purify the air in spaces up 100 sq m in size.

Titled Hidden in plain sight: Poly-fluorinated chemicals in the air of outdoor stores, the Greenpeace study involved taking air samples in 30 indoor locations, including 13 stores selling outdoor gear in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Norway, as well as in three stores in Taiwan. The store samples were compared to other samples taken at Greenpeace offices, seminar rooms and warehouses in Hamburg and Taipei as well as in other clothing stores not selling outdoor gear.

According to Greenpeace, concentrations of PFCs in the air in outdoor gear stores in Europe were 20 to 60 times higher than air samples collected in Greenpeace’s office and storage rooms in Hamburg and up to 1,000 times higher than urban outdoor air; with concentrations of PFCs in outdoor stores in Taiwan in the same range as those in Europe. "PFCs in significant concentrations were found in the flagship stores of all companies," the report states.

Earlier studies by Greenpeace discovered chemicals such as PFCs in waterproof outdoor gear including jackets and trousers, shoes, sleeping bags, backpacks, tents, in leather gloves, and in swimwear. In its latest study, Greenpeace said the air sampling found volatile PFCs. mainly fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOH), which are becoming increasingly common as substitutes for ionic PFCs in outdoor clothes and readily evaporate into the air.

“PFCs have been associated with numerous health effects in humans, including kidney and testicular cancer, and their use in consumer products such as clothing and other gear should be avoided if not totally eliminated so as not to put human health at risk by contaminating indoor air,” Rittri said.

Blueair suggests: 

Use an indoor air monitor to get continuous updates about the current quality of the indoor air and pollution outside on the street

Ensure a room is well ventilated at all times. If it is not possible to keep windows and doors open, create a safe indoor environment with an air purifier with filters that set industry standards for efficiency

Listen to what the body says: If a headache, unexplained cough or red and itchy eyes develop, it's possible the indoor air may be polluted