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H&M Group to Ban PFCs in All Products

H&M Group, the Swedish clothing retailer and manufacturer that has 2,600 stores worldwide, will no longer use perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, in any products ordered after Jan. 1, 2013.

PFCs are typically used by clothing manufacturers to make outer wear garments water repellent and stain resistant. PFCs, which also are used in shower curtains and tents, are bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans and have been found to be toxic in laboratory animals, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in tests, according to the EPA.

H&M will use an alternative that has good environmental and health properties while repelling water from clothing, the company says. The alternative can be used on all H&M fabrics.

H&M has also established a chemical restrictions policy for manufacturers throughout its supply chain. More than 30,000 chemical tests were carried out in 2011 in the development of its chemical restrictions policy, the company said.

H&M has previous banned other chemicals from its products. These include Azo dyes, short-chained chloroparaffins, chromium VI and phenols, such as pentachlorophenol, which is used as a pesticide and disinfectant.

The retailer is part of AFIRM, an international working group that aims to reduce the use of harmful substances in the apparel supply chain,

In March, Greenpeace alleged that clothing from H&M, Adidas, Ralph Lauren and Nike, among others, discharges a significant amount of hazardous chemicals into water systems when washed by customers. Among the samples that Greenpeace tested, those companies’ clothes emitted the highest percentage of nonylphenol ethoxylates on the first wash, according to “Dirty Laundry: Reloaded: How big brands are making consumers unwitting accomplices in the toxic water cycle.

Two years ago, H&M launched a program to cut 50 million liters of water consumption from its denim production. In 2011, H&M targeted a 100-million liter reduction in water use and ended up cutting 300 million liters from production, according to its sustainability report.

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