Environmental Assessment of Alternative Durable Water Repellent Chemicals. First steps towards a holistic assessment.
Licentiate thesis, 2016
Durable water repellent (DWR) finishes are applied to textiles to impart water and in some cases oil repellency. Water (and oil) repellency can be an important contribution to a textile’s performance, for comfort or for the protection of human lives under extreme conditions. DWRs incorporating side-chain fluorinated polymers based on long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are being phased out due to the recognition of the hazard they pose to humans and the environment. In this thesis the first steps towards a holistic environmental assessment of alternative DWRs are presented. A hazard assessment focussing on diffusively released substances showed that the available alternatives have better hazard profiles compared to the DWRs based on long-chain PFAS. Hydrocarbon based DWRs were assessed as most benign while properties of concern were identified for both side-chain-fluorinated polymers based on short-chain PFASs and silicones. To fully assess the human health and environmental toxicity impacts of the alternatives, including the possible trade-offs creating other types of negative impacts, risk assessment and life cycle assessment (LCA) are recommended methods and will be used to establish a substitution scheme. In addition to risks to human health and the environment due to chemical releases, a sound substitution scheme must also consider risks connected to DWR failure, and strive towards minimal release of hazardous substances. Further research needs to focus on filling the data gaps in the hazard profiles of the existing alternatives and to develop high performance DWRs with less problematic hazard profiles.