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POPFREE focus area: Textiles and leather

Background

The level of performance required in textiles and leather is highly dependent on the type of product and its intended end use and is built on different layers applied on the materials as well as on post- and re-impregnation, the latter often used by the end-consumer. Durable water repellence (DWR) is used for many garments provided currently by non-fluorinated alternatives. In textiles and leather, PFAS (fluorotelomer acrylates and/or methacrylates or fluoro sulphonamidoacrylates and/or methacrylates) are today mainly used to provide oil, dirt and water repellency, so called DWOR (durable water and oil repellence). Today, long chain poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) have primarily been phased out for most products on the market, though there are exemptions for high performing products such as extreme outdoor and protective equipment. Several short chain PFAS are, however, still applied to textile and leather products as replacements to “long chain” PFAS.

A range of specific and parallel requirements and consequently technical performances need to be fulfilled for many products like military equipment, personal protective Equipment (PPE), upholstery and high-performance outdoor apparel and rainwear. For example, a simultaneous requirement of durable DWOR and flame-retardant properties, has proven to be challenging in the ambition to phase out PFAS. The technical performances must be met in substitution cases together with increased health and environment performance for chosen replacement chemicals. Moreover, the challenge is that such information regarding health and environmental aspects or even technical aspects may be missing or not publicly available. Thus, retrieving, identifying or developing publicly available technical performance data in combination with substance environmental and hazard information are critical to fill current data gaps and for creating valuable decision support in the substitution process.

Challenges

  • Data gaps in technical and environmental/health performance on non-fluorinated alternatives.
  • Compatibility between different specific and parallel requirements/material layers/chemical treatments.
  • Public and industry awareness of fluorine free alternatives or how to choose a level of performance.
  • Non-fluorinated alternatives do not provide high enough performance or fulfill security requirements (flame retardant/high visibility).

Suggested scope

In the project, one main goal is to identify and test relevant substitutes to PFAS containing products and treatments currently in use by appointed sectors. Novel technical solutions will be evaluated in impregnation products. The suggested treatments/products will be tested and evaluated for technical performance and environmental & health characteristics, using PFAS as benchmark. The technical performance will focus on targeting or developing relevant and specific technical criteria (water column, surface tension) and functionality testing (spray test, oil repellency, abrasion test and ageing tests) associated with the different product categories and their specific needs. The textile case will also include compatibility studies for different chemical treatments through studying underlying physical and chemical phenomena necessary for high level of performance, for example oil repellency and flame retardance).

Environmental and health assessment will be performed using green screen methodology and LCA. To increase awareness and to further understand customer needs, surveys will be performed using the UK market via FIDRA. Communication with industrial and private end customers will be important to help consumers choose PFAS-free products when appropriate.

Partners producing or using high performance textiles will continue to work with substitution of PFAS in their products, together with the project researchers, on the basis of existing and gained knowledge of performance and hazard characteristics of the identified alternatives.

The outcome of the project will serve as a basis to set up relevant requirements and technical performance tests in communication with their suppliers.

Partners

In the case of textiles and leather, the project consists of partners representing public sector (military, PPE), retailer (high performing outdoor, work wear, footwear, hardware (for instance sleeping bags and backpacks)), material and fabric suppliers and suppliers of chemical products. The market is global, therefore partners and engaged suppliers will be Swedish and international.