Tokyo-based YKK Corp., a “zipper giant,” has uncovered the presence of per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” in the paint used on some of its waterproof zippers and other products.
This revelation has significant implications for the global supply chain and the effort to curb the use of PFAS, which have been associated with cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
One of the world’s leading zipper suppliers, YKK works with many major clothing companies. Some brands that use its zippers include Fjällräven, Patagonia, North Face, Eddie Bauer, and Columbia, among others.
How many of YKK’s customers were affected by the products containing PFAS remains unknown. Following the news, Bloomberg reached out to several apparel brands that use YKK zippers but they “either declined to say whether they were impacted or did not respond to requests for comment.”
The only brand that confirmed that its products were affected is Swedish Fjällräven, which announced in February that it wanted to discontinue the deliberate use of PFAS in all goods by the end of this year.
The company was informed about the PFAS issue by YKK in May, but it was already “too late” to replace the PFAS-containing zippers in the spring and summer 2024 collection with new ones, Fjällräven’s communications manager Philipp Kloeters said.
As to some of the other major brands using YKK zippers, the parent company of The North Face, VF Corp., has not confirmed whether their current products are impacted. However, the company stated that its fall 2024 season products, including those with YKK zippers, “will not contain PFAS chemistries.”
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Similarly, Patagonia did not confirm whether its products were affected but indicated that they have been successful in eliminating PFAS from their supply chain.
“We have moved from the success we’ve had in eliminating PFAS from the obvious places — fabrics, laminates and coatings — and we are looking at addressing it in all the other places,” the company’s head of outdoor sports Ted Manning said.
Eddie Bauer, Columbia Sportswear, L.L.Bean, and Lululemon Athletica did not respond to Bloomberg’s inquiries regarding the presence of PFAS in their zippers.
While YKK Corp. privately notified its customers about the presence of PFAS in certain waterproof zippers and other products earlier this year, this discovery is only now being made public.
Since discovering the chemicals in its products, YKK Corp says it embarked on an extensive effort to remove these harmful chemicals from its supply chain.
The vice president of YKK’s global marketing group, Chris Gleeson, told Bloomberg that the “paint containing PFAS came from multiple suppliers” and that the company “transitioned to PFAS-compliant paint” in September.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: A YKK zipper. Featured Photo Credit: BlueRidgeKitties.