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Avoid these chemicals in snowsuits

Many snowsuits in our test are good choices but some snowsuits contain fluorinated substances or the endocrine disrupting chemical, bisphenol A.

Stine Müller · Foto: Getty Images · 6. oktober 2022
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Children's snowsuits can contain problematic chemicals that can make the suit waterproof or originates from production.

These chemicals are not always good for children's health or the environment.

Fortunately, our test shows that you can find a snowsuit without these substances. In the test, 6 out of 9 snowsuits are without PFAS or higher amounts of bisphenol A.

PFAS found in one snowsuit

Snowsuits can contain PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)  that make the suit waterproof. PFAS can accumulate in the body and the environment. The substances are linked to health problems such as weakened immune system, high cholesterol levels and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

In this test, one snowsuit contains fluorinated substances in quantities, which indicate that they have been used in the production of the outer fabric.

New knowledge about bisphenol A in snowsuits

For the first time, we have tested snowsuits for bisphenol A (BPA), which is an endocrine disruptor in humans.

BPA can make plastic hard and heat-resistant. It has been found in coatings on the inside of cans and in food packaging. In recent years, reports on the presence of BPA in clothes has also appeared.

We don't know exactly why the snowsuits contain BPA. It could originate from recycled plastic that ends up in the clothes as different synthetic fibers. It can also be used in the production of polyester or stem from pollution from clothing production.

The certificate OEKO-TEX Confidence in textiles sets a limit for bisphenol A. Apart from that, there are no legal limit for BPA in clothing and textiles.

In our test, all the products contained bisphenol A. Most of them only in smaller amounts which we do not rate. But one snowsuit had a higher content than the others although still below the Oeko-Tex limit. The unwanted substance was found in the filling of the snowsuit.

The snowsuit is not a problem in itself

The overall exposure, or cocktail effect, of unwanted chemicals in your everyday life is problematic. Therefore, it makes good sense to choose snowsuits where PFAS have not been used in the production and without larger amounts of bisphenol A.

But one snowsuit with unwanted chemicals is not in itself a health problem. Therefore, you do not need to throw out a snowsuit if it contains, for example, PFAS or bisphenol A.

These 2 snowsuits in the test contain unwanted chemicals

Two snowsuits in the test contain unwanted chemicals. The Othello snowsuit from Ticket to heaven contains PFAS in the outer material in levels that indicate intentional use.

The snowsuit is labelled PFOA-free, which we consider an illegal labelling. The substance PFOA is prohibited. According to the Danish Consumer Ombudsman companies are not allowed to market a product as free of substances that are already illegal. Moreover, PFOA-free refers to only one fluorinated substance - and not all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

If you want to avoid all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, you should look for PFC-free, PFAS-free or fluoride-free. Or ask the manufacturer behind the snowsuit if it contains PFAS.

The HMLICY Snowsuit from Hummel contains Bisphenol A in higher concentrations than the other snowsuits we tested.

How we tested

  • The snowsuits are selected from the most popular brands, and after we have asked parents, which brands we should test.

    The snowsuits are tested for bisphenol A in all layers and for fluorinated substances in the outer fabric.

    How we tested the snowsuits for PFAS:

    1. First, we screen for fluorine on the outside of the outer fabric to find out whether PFAS could have been used.
    2. Then, we measure the release of volatile organic fluorine compounds after heating the outer fabric to 80 degrees.
    3. If we find positive results in both screenings, it indicates that fluorinated substances have been used in the snowsuit’s production.
    • 6 snowsuits get the best rating, A-rating. The test does not show fluorinated substances in these snowsuits, and the amount of bisphenol A in the textile is so low that it has not been included in our assessment.
    • 2 snowsuits get the lowest rating, C-rating1 snowsuit contains fluorine on the surface and releases volatile fluorinated substances when heated. The result indicates that PFAS have been used in the production of the outer fabric. The test cannot say exactly which specific fluorinated substances are involved or why they are used. But they can be used to make the textile water or dirt resistant. One snowsuit contains bisphenol A in the filling in higher concentrations.
    • 1 snowsuit gets the B-rating because it emits a limited amount of PFAS, but does not contain fluorine on the outside of the outer fabric. It is therefore unclear whether fluorinated substances have been used in this suit. It was without significant amounts of bisphenol A.

    Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

    PFAS are a group of substances that are used in products to make them water and grease resistant. You can find PFAS in products such as:

    • Clothes and textiles, including carpets and furniture that are water and dirt resistant
    • Impregnation for clothes, furniture and shoes
    • Personal care products and dental floss

    Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a large group of chemical substances that are problematic for your health and the environment.

    The substances are persistent in the environment and accumulate in the environment but also in humans and animals.

    PFAS can be transfered from mother to child through breast milk, and they are linked to endocrine disruption, weakening the immune system, increasing cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of certain cancers, etc.

    Scientists have only limited knowledge about many PFAS, and currently only two groups, PFOS and PFOA, are illegal to use. Other PFAS are still permitted in, for example, snowsuits.

    PFAS-free labels

    Snowsuits without PFAS can have different claims:

    • PFC-free
    • FC-free
    • Fluorine free recipe
    • Fluorine-free

    Several snowsuits are marketed as “treated with Bionic Finish", which is a fluorine-free textile treatment.

    But you can also encounter illegal claims. In the test, for example, the snowsuit from Ticket to heaven is labelled PFOA-free, but it still contains PFAS.

    PFOA is a fluorinated substance, which has been prohibited since 2020 and the claim PFOA-free is therefore no longer allowed. According to the Danish Consumer Ombudsman’s guidelines for marketing, it is not allowed to market a product as free of substances that are already prohibited.

    Bisphenol A

    Bisphenol A is endocrine disrupting in humans. It is considered a substance of very high concern (SVHC) by the EU due to its endocrine disrupting properties.

    The substance is also classified in the EU as potentially harmful to fertility.

    Therefore, the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has proposed a new risk assessment for BPA, where the limit for tolerable intake is approximately 100,000 times lower than the current limit. The risk assessment is still a draft but it is expected to be ready by the end of 2022.

    Bisphenol A is prohibited in cash receipts, baby bottles and baby food packaging. In addition, there are migration limits for toys and food packaging made of plastic and coating on the inside of cans.

    The label OEKO-TEX Confidence in textiles has a limit for bisphenol A of 100 mg BPA/kg. The substance is not regulated in clothing and textiles but has previously been found in for example baby socks.

    In our test, the filling in the Hummel snowsuit contained 148 mg/kg. The other snowsuits in the test contained between 0.17 and 6.2 mg/kg.

    This is the first time that the Danish Consumer Council THINK investigates BPA in textile products.

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