They’re called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and they’re all over the place in our modern world. Water-resistant fabrics are often impregnated with them, your favorite non-stick egg pan is probably coated with them, and for decades, ski wax has been made with the stuff.
That’s changing though, the ski wax part, anyway, as these chemicals last pretty much forever in the environment, and they’re hellaciously toxic.
Ski wax makers have been gradually introducing less toxic waxes for a few years now, and some racing organizations have enacted total bans on the use of ski waxes with PFAS.
Last month, Boise State Public Radio produced a story about the switch the ski industry is in the midst of, from waxes loaded with PFAS to waxes that aren’t. All it really took was an increase in awareness.
From the story:
“Gail Carlson directs the Buck Lab for Climate and Environment at Colby College in Maine. Her son was a Nordic racer, and she was concerned about the waxes. So she tested the snow after a race back in 2020.
“‘What we found was that the snow at the start line was extraordinarily contaminated with these fluorochemicals, which are called PFAS,'” she said. “And the snow was so contaminated that the testing lab that did our work for us asked me, like, ‘What is this sample?'”
Read the rest of the story, or even listen to it, right here.