PFAS/PFC-Free Winter Outdoor Gear For Infants, Toddlers & Kids
Does your child’s winter gear contain the forever chemical, PFAS? Protect the health of your children and the environment with PFAS-free and PFC-free winter outerwear. From toddler jackets to kids’ ski pants, your children deserve the safest choices when it comes to winter gear, and that includes warm outer layers that protect your children from the winter elements without harmful PFAS/PFC chemicals.
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As a former ski bum and mom of avid sledders and snowperson builders, I can appreciate the need for winter outerwear clothing to be waterproof. Being wet outside in the winter is just not fun and can even be dangerous. It wasn’t until recently that I started to wonder what chemicals were used to make fabric waterproof. Unfortunately, most waterproof fabric uses PFAS chemicals that are environmentally-destructive and harmful to human health in order to produce waterproof functionality.
What Is PFAS?
PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Chemicals in this class of substances are found in products like nonstick pans (e.g. “Teflon”), food packaging, waterproof jackets, and carpets to repel water, grease, and stains.
PFAS don’t easily break down, and they can persist in your body and in the environment for decades. As a result of their pervasiveness, more than 95 percent of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What Are The Health Risks Of PFAS Exposure?
Chemical waste containing PFOA from a Teflon manufacturing plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia leached into the groundwater and polluted the drinking water in the surrounding area. Studies of almost 70,000 people that lived near the Teflon plant linked PFOA in tap water to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis and other health problems. Further research has associated PFAS with more health risks, including increased risk of asthma, immune system disfunction, decreased vaccine response in children, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-ecalmpsia in pregnant women, small decreases in infant birth weight and weight gain in adults.
Although PFOA and PFOS (long chain PFAS) have been voluntarily phased out by industry, they have been replaced by other chemicals in the PFAS family. GenX is a short-chain PFAS replacement for PFOA, yet studies suggest that GenX is linked to harmful effects in the liver and reproductive problems (1).
Is PFAS Exposure A Danger To Children’s Health?
A 2021 review study found that PFAS exposure in utero, infants and early childhood was positively associated with reduced response to vaccines, increased risk of childhood infectious diseases among other health issues (2).
Because kids are developing and growing so rapidly, their little bodies are especially vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure. Preventing exposure to toxic chemicals now will help to intercept any health issues your children might face in the future.
What Is DWR?
DWR stands for “Durable Water Repellant”, and this membrane does just what it promises – it makes fabric impermeable to water and has the added benefit of keeping it breathable. You will see this term often when looking for waterproof or water-resistant outerwear.
Do all DWR materials contain PFAS? Most of them do, but not all. Look for PFC-Free DWR. PFC stands for Perfluorinated chemicals, and in outdoor industry lingo, it’s the same group of fluorinated chemicals as PFAS (the EPA is currently using the term PFAS in place of PFC).
Don’t be fooled by the terms PFOA-free and PFOS-free. These refer to 2 specific long-chain PFAS chemicals that have been phased out. A company that uses these claims may be greenwashing you and using alternative PFAS chemicals to coat their fabric.
Some outdoor companies are now recognizing the paradoxical nature of using PFAS chemicals in their products – the outdoor clothing they make is intended for going out and enjoying the outdoors, yet the chemicals used on the clothing are destroying the environment and causing health issues. PFAS chemicals have even been detected on the top of Mount Everest – picture a long line of mountain climbers wearing waterproof clothing and sleeping in waterproof tents. The PFAS chemicals shed off onto the snow, and this contaminated snow serves as drinking water for the climbers as well as thousands of people downstream.
Are Outdoor Companies Phasing Out PFAS?
The good news is that many outdoor gear companies are phasing out PFAS, and some have completely switched to PFC-free DWR. Some companies have made goals to be PFAS-free by a certain time-period and have not met those goals yet, so I like to look at the material of each item of clothing individually. I’ve put together a list of some of the outdoor clothing companies and where they stand as far as phasing out PFAS chemicals on their outerwear:
- Helly Hansen– Over 70% of our sports apparel is PFAS-free DWR and we aim to have a 100% PFAS-free inline collection by 2023. Lifa Infinity Pro- Using our LIFA® fibers, a Helly Hansen technology that is lightweight and hydrophobic, the fully waterproof/breathable membrane and durable water repellent performance are achieved without the use of chemicals. Read more here.
- The North Face– Goal of 100% non-fluorinated DWR used on apparel by 2020, although this has not been completely met yet. In 2019, the North Face unveiled its Futurelight line, which consists of jackets, shoes, gloves, bibs, and rain pants. These products all use a breathable, waterproof material that’s also durable. Read more here.
- Jack Wolfskin– No PFCs used in their Texapore coating, fleece jackets, softshell jackets after 2019. Read more here.
- Polarn O. Pyret– Uses BIONIC-FINISH® ECO, a PFAS-free technology that mimics natural water repellency seen in nature. And by choosing our GOTS-certified garments, you are guaranteed that the very best chemicals in the market have been used and no pesticides. Read more here.
- Isbjorn of Sweden– Uses BIONIC Finish Eco© Flourcarbonefree water repellant treatment. Read more here.
- Primary– Puffer jackets and vests feature a non-PFCs (i.e. not carcinogenic) water-repellent finish. The non-PFC agent is called Bionic Finish ECO by Rudolf, and you can read more about it here.
- Burton– All accessories are 100% PFC-Free DWR, some outdoor gear is PFC-free. Read more here.
- Reima– Only fluorochemical-free / fluorine-free water repellent finishes are allowed in Reima’s garments. Read more here.
- Picture Organic– Uses only PCF-free DWR. Read more here.
As a former preschool teacher and mom of 2 daughters in Colorado, I’ve seen my fair share of kids sucking on mittens and scooping snow with mittened hands and licking it. Personally, the first waterproof item I would switch out to PFAS/PFC-free (PFC-free DWR) are the mittens, as the route to ingesting PFAS from mittens leads to the greatest exposure. I’ve rounded up kids mittens that are PFAS/PFC-free and listed them below. I also did extensive research on kids jackets, snowpants and snowsuits by brand and listed them all below.
Your children deserve the safest choice when it comes to winter gear, and that includes warm outer layers that protect your children from the winter elements without harmful PFAS/PFC chemicals.
Polarn O. Pyret
Polarn O. Pyret is a Swedish company with an impressive sustainability model. They carry high quality kids clothing that’s meant to withstand the elements without PFAS chemicals.
Helly Hansen For Toddlers & Kids
Helly Hansen is a Norwegian company that makes PFC-free outerwear for both kids and adults.
Helly Hansen For Older Kids
Helly Hansen is a Norwegian company that makes PFC-free outerwear for both kids and adults.
The North Face For Kids
The North Face has carries a range of PFC-free outerwear, with a goal of phasing out all fluorinated DWR.
Burton is a Vermont-based company with a wide range of PFC-free outerwear.
Primary is a sustainably forward company with great unisex options.
Namuk is a Swiss clothing company, and they have a mission to phase out DWR. Some of their outerwear is PFC-free DWR.
Picture Organic is a French company with kid and adult outerwear options.
Isbjorn Of Sweden
Isbjorn of Sweden makes PFC-free outerwear for kids and teens.
Jack Wolfskin offers a wide range of PFC-free outerwear for kids.
More Kids Natural Living Inspiration
- Conley JM, Lambright CS, Evans N, Strynar MJ, McCord J, McIntyre BS, Travlos GS, Cardon MC, Medlock-Kakaley E, Hartig PC, Wilson VS, Gray LE Jr. Adverse Maternal, Fetal, and Postnatal Effects of Hexafluoropropylene Oxide Dimer Acid (GenX) from Oral Gestational Exposure in Sprague-Dawley Rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2019 Mar;127(3):37008. doi: 10.1289/EHP4372. PMID: 30920876; PMCID: PMC6768323.
- Haley von Holst, Pratibha Nayak, Zygmunt Dembek, Stephanie Buehler, Diana Echeverria, Dawn Fallacara, Lisa John, Perfluoroalkyl substances exposure and immunity, allergic response, infection, and asthma in children: review of epidemiologic studies, Heliyon, Volume 7, Issue 10, 2021, e08160, ISSN 2405-8440, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e08160.