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Greenpeace mount successful expeditions to high altitudes and high latitudes using Nikwax PFC-free fabric technology

To draw attention to the threat posed by pollution from perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), Greenpeace has visited some of the most inhospitable places on earth, by foot, to sample the pristine water and snow for PFC chemicals. At the same time it tested PFC-free outdoor clothing in extreme conditions, aiming to overcome the myth that functional clothing needs PFCs for the toughest climates. A number of the garments used by Greenpeace researchers were manufactured by Páramo, who uses the PFC-free Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric system. Expedition members commented that they were very happy with the equipment, even in harsh weather conditions above 5,000 metres of altitude.


The new Greenpeace report “Footprints in the snow”, based on the expeditions, reveals PFCs can be found in some of the remotest corners of the world. PFCs have for years been used by many aftercare companies to achieve the water repellency of their treatments. Nikwax is the only aftercare and fabric technology provider to have never used PFCs, having assessed them as hazardous materials. PFCs do not break down easily in the environment and build up in our bodies. There is good scientific evidence that PFCs cause health issues: affecting the hormone system, promoting growth of cancerous tumours and causing sterility.

Previous Greenpeace research revealed PFC water repellents are found on the waterproofs of most major outdoor brands. For the latest report, the expeditions found traces of both long-chain C8 PFCs (traditionally used by outdoor brands) and short-chain C6 PFCs (more recently adopted as a “safer” alternative to C8s). The report highlights that most outdoor brands are still contributing towards the presence of PFCs after failing to eliminate these toxic chemicals from their products. Greenpeace believes outdoor companies need to avoid using all PFCs for the sake of human health and the environment.


Nick Brown, CEO of Nikwax said: “I recognised 15 years ago that using PFC technology in Nikwax products would be taking a risk with the health of my consumers. Anyone who cares about the wellbeing of their family and future generations should be concerned that the continued spread of PFCs will leave us with decades of pollution to deal with. From outdoor lovers to city dwellers, the power is in the hands of ordinary people to urge the industry and politicians to take action on the total elimination of these toxins.”

Nikwax has been one of the few pioneers in the industry to campaign against the use of PFCs and earlier this year held a conference with Greenpeace at the ISPO Outdoor trade fair to simply lay out the dangers these chemicals pose.

It’s time to act! Find out more and read the full report at

Images: Greenpeace

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A personal letter from Nick Brown, founder of Nikwax, about PFC pollution, and Greenpeace

Dear Outdoor Enthusiast,

I am writing to you about something which I do not think has received enough attention in the UK, in the hope that you will help us to publicise it.

PFC pollution – Britain lags behind in awareness

Most people in Britain would have no idea what I am talking about, whereas in Germany, Central Europe and Scandinavia a group of chemicals called PFCs are often in the news.

In short, they are chemicals that combine Carbon and Fluorine and are widely used in the manufacture of Outdoor clothing. They are also used in food packaging, carpets and many household chemicals.

PFCs are persistent and incredibly toxic and Nikwax does not use them – why not?

In the year 2000 Nikwax was looking into using fluorocarbon, PFC water repellents. Around that time, 3M, at a stroke, decided to pull all of their PFC fluorocarbon water repellents off the market – this raised alarm bells. The main reason given at the time was that PFCs are persistent in the environment. This seemed to me to be good enough information to embargo them for Nikwax. However, as a company, we continued to be offered different versions of PFCs by chemical suppliers, with the promise that they were “perfectly safe”. We have continued to reject them for 15 years.

15 years later different variants of these PFC toxic chemicals are used by almost all manufacturers in the Outdoor Industry – and their use is still increasing – why?

PFCs are big business. And they are complicated. And they are invisible. And the same kinds of professional PR companies have been adopted to protect them as those which are used by the tobacco companies, to great effect.

Who is fighting against this PFC pollution? – Greenpeace have taken the lead

Greenpeace are an organisation which takes no money from business. Their goal is to protect the environment and us, and to take up battles against impossibly powerful organisations. Greenpeace have recognised that textile manufacture is creating terrible water pollution, including PFC pollution, throughout the world, and it is their intention to do something about it. To that end, they created their campaign Chemistry for any Weather.

Nikwax invited Greenpeace to speak to the Outdoor Press at the ISPO sport trade show in Munich in February

To make the Outdoor Industry more aware of the issue, Nikwax decided to give a talk at the recent ISPO sports trade fair in Munich, to explain the PFC issue in simple terms, and to invite along Greenpeace to speak about their campaigns. The fluorochemical industry has largely managed the issue by adding layer after layer of complexity. Our intention was to lay out the issues as simply and clearly as possible. To see me on the podium with the representatives from Greenpeace, go here!

Who does NOT use PFCs in Outdoor Clothing?

Almost no one. All of the major outdoor brands use PFCs. But, some outstanding companies like H&M have already taken the lead in terms of streetwear. In the UK, only one purely outdoor brand has controlled the exclusion of all PFC water repellents from their production, and that is Páramo. To find out which major brands are working with Greenpeace to remove PFCs, watch our video!

How long will it take to exclude PFCs from the whole Outdoor business?

That depends entirely upon you. At one level, business is a great democracy: you can vote with your wallet. Most serious outdoor companies now have a plan to try to remove some PFCs from their production by 2020. They recognise the problem, but in reality many are often hiding behind a smokescreen of “environmental labels” or statements like “PFOA-free” which do not mean PFC-free.

How do I know something is PFC-free? Does Bluesign mean PFC-free?

Bluesign most definitely does not mean PFC-free. The vast majority of Bluesign approved waterproof garments contain PFCs.

Demand PFC and fluorocarbon-free from your retailers and the business will change, and fast. You have the power, as consumers. But most of all, take your information from Greenpeace, and not from the PR statements and eco-labels which have been crafted by the PFC industry to protect textile companies.

Isn’t Nikwax just another chemical company – what gives YOU the authority to point the finger?

I believe that here is such a thing as responsible business, but only if business is held to account. As a businessman I can be a force for positive change.

However business cannot hold business to account. You cannot be poacher as well as gamekeeper. I recognise that we need independent campaigners like Greenpeace to force the issues, create the publicity, and drive the less responsible businesses towards a more positive environmental future. I do not agree with all of Greenpeace’s positions, but I thoroughly support their advocacy and campaigning. As a lonely voice in the Outdoor Industry on this issue I have often been drowned out by the bigger brands and accused of raising the issue for commercial reasons. That is not the case. At Nikwax we make millions of units of waterproofing. I believe that if I had gone down the PFC route 15 years ago, someone would have died by now from cancer as a consequence. It is not a responsibility I wanted to take. So I support Greenpeace in that they make it easier for all of us to do the right thing.

Please, pass the word and send this to your friends.



Nick Brown