PFAS-coated clothes that are thrown away will often end up either incinerated or in landfill. Unless incinerated at very high temperatures (>1000oC), fluorinated polymers could release more harmful PFAS during burning. PFAS of environmental concern have also been found in landfill leachate. PFAS is found in treated waste water from industrial and domestic sources and has been found in both rivers and groundwater. Conventional drinking water processes will not remove PFAS.Small quantities of PFAS will be removed during wash and wear of products containing PFAS. This includes fluorinated polymers used on stain-resistant coatings, and non-polymers that remain on clothes after production (Lassen et al. 2015).Non-polymer PFAS can build up in blood protein of animals, and is not always removed quickly. This means that predators eating PFAS-contaminated food will have higher levels in their bloodstream, and concentrations can increase up the food chain. Studies suggest that build up of PFAS is similar to those of other Persistent Organic Pollutants such as DDT.PFAS are estimated to be settling in arctic regions at rates of tens to hundreds of kilograms per year (25-850kg per year), depending on the specific PFAS chemical in question. Certain PFAS are released as gases to the environment and are blown a long way by wind and air currents in the atmosphere,. These gas PFAS will over time degrade to more persistent chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. This may be one reason why PFAS of environmental concern have been found in remote regions such as the Arctic as well as near PFAS production sitesPFAS including PFOS and PFOA have been found in air samples around Europe. The chemicals are found in small quantities, but appear in almost all samples tested. PFAS enters the atmosphere both from factories and the air inside our homes. Non-polymer PFAS are used in the production of fluorinated polymers. The manufacture of stain-resistant finishes generally releases these PFASs into the environment, both by air and water emissions. They are very hard to remove during water treatment. Workers in textiles factories are some of the population most exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals.
COP 26 Flame Retardants - Fidra
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Flame Retardants

in a Circular Economy

What does a sofa, a seabird and a spatula have in common? They all contain harmful chemical retardants! Right now, hazardous chemicals used in our everyday products are undermining the safety of recycled products, creating a barrier to the circular economy, and endangering wildlife already under threat from the climate crisis.


Mattresses contain unnecessarily large quantities of chemical flame retardants (cFRs) that can persist, bioaccumulate and place a harmful chemical burden on the environment.

Older mattresses may contain now banned substances, but information on chemical content isn’t freely available, so it is almost impossible to determine which are safe to recycle and which aren’t.

Recycling of mattresses may mean cFRs are recycled into products that are unsuitable and unsafe for their use, undermining the success of a circular economy.


Introduction of a dynamic information system that allows consumers, recyclers and retailers to find out what chemicals are in products is needed.

Accessible chemical content data would allow products containing hazardous substances to be disposed of appropriately and the safety of recycled products to be maintained.

Moving away from hazardous cFRs and supporting products made ‘safe by design’ would help fuel a successful circular economy from the source.


Legislators and manufacturer need to promote fire safety through product design to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals.

Companies must ensure chemical transparency and traceability throughout supply chains.

Governments need to align chemical policy with circular economy goals.

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