Seven expeditions across the globe to detox the great outdoors

Detox Expedition in the Sibillini Mountains. 05/26/2015 © Greenpeace / Roberto Isotto

Four years ago, when we started challenging the fashion industry to commit to eliminating toxic chemicals, we didn’t know how far we could get. Today, Detox is becoming a standard for textiles; something that brands are proud to be a part of. It is time to challenge another sector: the outdoor industry.

In 2012 and 2013 Greenpeace Germany conducted investigations which showed that most of the outdoor sector relies on per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) to make outdoor gear waterproof.

Some PFCs are known to be hazardous. With others, we don’t know enough. That’s why we are calling for much more stringent regulations to protect the environment and our health. In light of the hazardous properties of many PFCs, it is not enough to merely regulate single substances as is currently being done at the international level. Greenpeace demands that the entire group of PFCs be put to the test.

Detox Expedition in the High Tatras. 05/26/2015 © Greenpeace / Tomas Halas

In May and June Greenpeace is going to seven famous remote areas around the world to collect water and snow samples and test them for PFCs. In some cases this will be in collaboration with alpine associations or other volunteer groups. Our goal is to find out how widespread and out of control the problem of PFCs contamination really is. To what extent, even in very remote areas, far away from civilization or polluting industries are PFCs infecting ecosystems?

PFCs can persist in the environment for millions of years and future generations will continue to be exposed via contaminated water, air and food. They are already found deep in the ocean, on mountain tops, and in nearly all living creatures. Once these extremely persistent toxic chemicals are released into the environment during industrial production, there is no going back.  

In China, we are running an expedition into the Haba Snow Mountains; in Europe, we are exploring the oldest national park in the Swiss Alps, collecting samples from extraordinary small lakes nested in the mountains. We are doing the same in the Sibillini National Park in the Italian Apennines, the High Tatras Mountains in central Europe and the Golden Mountains of Altai in Russia.

In Chile, we are taking samples in the stunning Patagonian mountains of Torres del Paine. In Northern Europe, the expedition will cover Treriksroset – the point at which the borders of Sweden, Norway and Finland meet.

Detox Expedition on Haba Snow Mountain. 05/26/2015 © Greenpeace / Unknown

In this new challenge, we want to involve people passionate about outdoor sports, or simply urban people who wear waterproof jackets when taking their dogs for a walk in the park. Do they know that what they wear harms the environment?

Awareness is already growing among politicians and scientists and it is time for consumers to get involved.

On May 1st, in the so called “Madrid Statement”, more than 200 scientists from 38 countries called for PFC elimination from the production of all consumer products, including textiles. The entire class of highly fluorinated chemicals is extremely persistent, potentially toxic, and should be replaced with safer alternatives.

Many highly fluorinated chemicals continue to accumulate in the water and the food we eat. Exposure to high concentrations of PFC has been linked to a wide range of health problems including cancer, hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis, lower birth weight and size, and decreased immune response to vaccines in children.

Let’s detox the great outdoors. Together we can eliminate PFCs. We can #DetoxOutdoor, we need to do it!

Share this blog spreading the #DetoxOutdoor message. If you want to do more, sign the fashion manifesto.

Gabriele Salari is the pro tempore Comms Lead for the Detox Outdoor project at Greenpeace Italy.

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