Mother Jones: The Horrible Chemicals That Make Your Winter Gear Waterproof

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Ever since our early ancestors left the fertile sauna of Africa and headed North, we humans have been searching for ways to fend off sleet and snow and rain and cold. The Inuit once relied on seal and whale intestines to get the job done. Nowadays, we rely on waterproof synthetics.

These modern fabrics represent a certain kind of progress, but they also have a worrisome downside. Some of the fluorocarbon chemicals used in their manufacture are dangerous for our health, and are so stable that their residues will persist in the environment, quite literally, until the next Ice Age. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that the industry’s latest alternatives, which are marketed as safer, are much of an improvement.

Maddie Oatman