STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A new study has found levels of hazardous poly-fluorinated chemicals in the indoor air of sports gear stores in Europe and Asia up to 1,000 times higher than street-side air.
Blueair, a leader in mobile indoor air purification technologies, says the study provides yet more evidence of the surprising, often hidden dangers lurking in indoor air that endanger human health.
“It is ironic that sports gear designed to help people stay healthy is helping to create toxic indoor environments that may make us sick by increasing our exposure to extremely high levels of airborne chemicals,” said Bengt Rittri, CEO of Blueair.
The study was conducted by Greenpeace, “Hidden in plain sight: Poly-fluorinated chemicals in the air of outdoor stores,” involved taking air samples in 30 indoor locations, including 13 stores selling outdoor gear in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Norway, and three stores in Taiwan. The store samples were compared to other samples taken at Greenpeace offices, seminar rooms and warehouses in Hamburg and Taipei as well as in other clothing stores not selling outdoor gear.
According to the environmental activist group, the results show that “concentrations of PFCs in the air in outdoor stores in Europe were 20 to 60 times higher than air samples collected in Greenpeace’s office and storage rooms in Hamburg and up to 1000 times higher than urban outdoor air; concentrations of PFCs in outdoor stores in Taiwan were in the same range as those in Europe. PFCs in significant concentrations were found in the flagship stores of all companies.”
Earlier studies by Greenpeace discovered chemicals such as poly-PFCs in waterproof outdoor gear including jackets and trousers, shoes, sleeping bags, backpacks, tents, in leather gloves, and in swimwear. In its latest study, Greenpeace said the air sampling found volatile poly-fluorinated chemicals, mainly uorotelomer alcohols, which are becoming increasingly common as substitutes for ionic PFCs in outdoor clothes and readily evaporate into the air.
There are different kinds of PFCs, which are used in a wide range of consumer products, including carpets, textiles and leather goods as well as in fire-fighting foam and paints. A number of studies have shown PFCs such as PFOS and PFOA may have hormone disrupting properties that could impact both the reproductive system and the immune system of humans and animals.
“PFCs have been associated with numerous health effects in humans, including kidney and testicular cancer, and their use in consumer products such as clothing and other gear should be avoided if not totally eliminated so as not to put human health at risk by contaminating indoor air,” Rittri said.
How can people protect against contaminated air?
Become aware. Use an indoor air monitor to get continuous updates about the current quality of the indoor air and pollution outside on the street
Ensure rooms are well ventilated at all times. If it’s not possible to keep windows and doors open, create a safe indoor clean air haven by using a air purifiers that sucks in the pollutants
If a employees or customers get headaches, unexplained cough or red and itchy eyes develop, it’s possible the indoor air may be polluted, so act fast to find the cause and correct the problem.
Read the full Greenpeace investigation report here.