Detox Expedition in the Sibillini Mountains. 05/26/2015 © Greenpeace / Roberto Isotto

Right at this moment, Greenpeace offices are conducting expeditions to remote areas around the world, to investigate the presence of persistent and toxic chemicals used by outdoor brands to make gear waterproof.

Four years ago, when we started challenging the fashion industry to commit to eliminating toxic chemicals, we didn't know how far we could go. Today, the Detox commitment is becoming a standard for textiles and something that brands are proud to be a part of. It is time to challenge another sector: the outdoor industry.

In 2012 and 2013 Greenpeace Germany conducted investigations  showing that most of the outdoor sector relies on per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) to make outdoor gear waterproof 

PFCs are known to be persistent in the environment and accumulate in the water we drink and the food we eat. Exposure to high concentrations of some PFCs has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including hormone disruption and impacts on the reproductive and the immune systems.

Detox Expedition in the High Tatras. 05/26/2015 © Greenpeace / Tomas Halas

In May and June, Greenpeace is going to seven famous remote areas around the world to collect water and snow samples and test them for PFCs, in some cases in collaboration with alpine associations or volunteer groups. The aim is to expose how widespread the problem of PFC contamination really is, and that even very remote areas, far away from civilisation or polluting industries, are already affected.

PFCs can persist in the environment for many years and future generations will continue to be exposed via contaminated water, air and food. The chemicals are already found deep in the ocean, on mountaintops and in living creatures. Once these extremely persistent toxic substances are released into the environment during industrial production, there is no going back. 

In China, Greenpeace East Asia is running an expedition to the Haba Snow Mountains; in Europe, Greenpeace Switzerland is exploring the oldest national park in the Swiss Alps, collecting samples from extraordinary small lakes nestled among the mountain. Greenpeace Italy is doing the same in the Sibillini National Park in the Italian Apennines, Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe the High Tatras Mountains in Slovakia and Greenpeace Russia the Golden Mountains of Altai in Russia.

In Chile, Greenpeace Andino is taking samples in the stunning Patagonian mountains of Torres del Paine. In Northern Europe, the expedition will cover Treriksroset, the point at which the borders of Sweden, Norway and Finland meet. 

Detox Expedition on Haba Snow Mountain. 05/26/2015 © Greenpeace / Unknown

With this new challenge, we want to involve people who are passionate about outdoor sports, or simply urban people who wear waterproof jackets when taking their dogs for a walk in the park. Do they know that what they wear harms the environment?

 Awareness is already growing among politicians and scientists and it is time for consumers to get involved.

On May 1st, in the so called "Madrid Statement", more than 200 scientists from 38 countries shared their concerns about highly fluorinated chemicals and asked for a limit to the production and use of these chemicals. We need much more stringent regulation to protect the environment and public health. It is not enough to merely regulate single substances, as is currently done at international level. Greenpeace demands that the entire group of PFCs is eliminated and substituted with safer alternatives.

 Let’s detox the great outdoors. Together we can challenge outdoor brands to eliminate PFCs. We can #DetoxOutdoor. 

Join us and share this blog. Spread the #DetoxOutdoor message, and join the fashion manifesto.

Gabriele Salari is the Communications Lead for the Detox Outdoor project at Greenpeace Italy.