A new fluorine-free (PFC-free) water-repellent for textiles
A large number of commonly used water repellent surface treatments for textiles are based on perfluorinated organic compounds (PFC). It has been shown that several perfluorinated compounds (e.g. PFOA and PFOS) are persistent, bioaccumulative and pose a severe risk to human health and the environment.
A fluorine-free water repellent alternative was the choice of a well known company that used it for its ecologically advanced collection.
Evidence of assessment: there is evidence of an official (positive) assessment of the substitution
Evidence of implementation: there is evidence that the solution was implemented and in use at time of publication
Many polyfluorocarbons (PFCs) which are often used as water repellents pose severe risks to human health and the environment. For example, according to EU classification, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) is suspected of causing cancer, may cause harm to breast-fed children, may damage the unborn child, and is toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.
The alternative is an aqueous emulsion of dendrimers and polymers with a proprietary composition. According to the MSDS (available on request from the producer) the functionalized polymers (5-15% of the product) are irritant to eyes and skin. The water base mixture also contains glycols (1-5%) classified as irritant to eyes and cationic surfactants (0.5-1%), that are corrosive when concentrated and toxic to the aquatic environment.
The alternative was evaluated according to Cradle to Cradle criteria based on the individual properties of the components. The product (as a whole) does not have to be labelled according to EU regulations for mixtures/preparations.
Water repellents used for textiles improve the comfort of products, especially those for sport and leisure.
In spring 2011, PUMA SE, Herzogenaurach, and the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) GmbH, Hamburg started a long-term cooperation for more sustainable products. One goal of this cooperation is the development of products according to the Cradle to Cradle® design principles. In 2013 the first Cradle to Cradle certified (CM) PUMA collection was launched, called PUMA In-Cycle. The two companies are continuously working on the improvement of products using Cradle to Cradle® principles.
According to Cradle to Cradle®, after their use phase, products can be kept in biological or technical cycles and serve as input for new products. For details see Further Information.
Cradle to Cradle® design usually requires a complete redesign of products, starting at the material base. Every material has to be selected with respect to its ability to go into biological or technical cycles within the given product context. Of course, non-toxicity of all product components and process inputs and outputs is a fundamental requirement of Cradle to Cradle® design. This means, at least, the complete absence of CMR (carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxicants), PBT/vPvB (persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic) and endocrine disrupting substances.
In the course of the In-Cycle project all material classes (e.g. fibers, plastics, elastomers, resins, dyestuffs, pigments, adhesives) have been / will be evaluated with respect to the Cradle to Cradle® design principles and have been / will be successively re-placed by benign materials.
Under a non-disclosure agreement, EPEA had the chance to get detailed knowledge of the composition of a new, fluorine- free, water repellent for textiles. The repellent (RUCO-DRY ECO®) underwent a toxicological assessment by EPEA. The alternative does not contain any heavy metals or organohalogenated compounds, nor does it cleave-off hazardous substances during application. It does not contain nanomaterials, hazardous or not.
As a result, RUCO-DRY ECO® was recommended for use in the PUMA InCycle collection. It is an aqueous emulsion of dendrimers and polymers. The typical application type is padding. It can also be sprayed on the finished textile and dried at elevated temperatures. Other types of application are possible. After wet-cleaning, the water-repellent effect has to be reactivated by heating the textile to more than 60°C. Dry-cleaning will destroy the water-repellent effect.
The replacement of PFC-containing surface treatments by the environmentally favorable water repellent RUCO-DRY ECO® – applied to an InCycle product launched in 2013 – is one step which demonstrates the potential for technical and environmental progress.
As an active member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) working group, PUMA is currently investigating further options to replace PFC based water repellent finishes.
The alternative is easy to implement and it eliminates the use of organofluorinated water repellants classified as hazardous and known to be of high concern.
Moreover, the producer declares that the alternative does not contain alkylphenolethoxilates (APEs). APE like nonylphenol ethoxylates (e.g. CAS 127087-87-0) are endocrine disruptors and hazardous to environment.
EPEA GmbH presentation of Cradle to Cradle http://epea-hamburg.org/index.php?id=69&L=0Further languages available
Type of information supplier
Name: Reiner Hengstmann
Publication or last update: March 2013