PFAS are a group of chemicals, often used to make outerwear water resistant. These substances have been found to have many unwanted properties; being persistent, bio-accumulative and having a slow elimination time from the human body — and are therefore also hazardous to human health. Although there are no natural sources of PFAS in the environment, it can travel long distances: move through soil, seep into the groundwater or carry through the air. It has been found in many remote areas — for instance, scientists have found PFAS in the blood of Arctic polar bears.
H&M Group and PFAS
H&M Group has been working actively to reduce the use and impact of hazardous chemicals since 1995, and was the first fashion company to phase out PFAS in our functional outerwear and other types of garments.
In 2009, H&M took the initiative to investigate PFAS-free alternatives to water repellents in functional outerwear. During that time, a decision to work towards a complete phase-out of PFAS in the company's product range was taken, and as a first step, the winter wears for kids were targeted — a product where water repellency is often needed. Later on, sportswear and other products in the assortment were targeted — such as umbrellas, shower curtains and rain clothes. By the end of 2010, the first products with PFAS-free finishing were introduced, and since January 2013, H&M Group has a global ban PFAS within the apparel, shoe and homeware assortment.
Before enforcing the ban, a Positive List was published, listing better alternatives to hazardous chemicals. In connection with the launch of the positive list, internal routines for eliminating PFAS in production and a guideline on evaluating alternatives was set up.
PFAS in beauty products and makeup
H&M Group has been working to phase out PFAS in self-produced cosmetics, and the use of these substances was halted for new development of products in mid-2017. As of autumn 2018, no self-produced cosmetics containing PFAS are being manufactured.
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