The health risks to workers in industrial factories with insufficient safety measures for chemical exposure is well-known. One family of chemical compounds under particular scrutiny recently is perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Sometimes colloquially known as ‘forever chemicals’, PFAS are often used as coatings for industrial textiles to improve strength, durability, and chemical and water resistance.
The reason there has been so much scrutiny of PFAS is because of their very long environmental persistence and concerns about their unknown or potentially harmful health effects combined with the possibility of long-term cumulative exposure.1 While PFAS is a very broad chemical class, with the US Environmental Protection Agency recently having identified over 11000 different compounds under the PFAS classification, legislative efforts to reduce or eliminate all but ‘essential’ use are growing amongst agencies in the European Union, the United States and United Nations.2
PFAS are not the only group of chemicals that are under scrutiny from legislative agencies at present. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or Teflon, is also facing similar concerns.3 In particular for PTFE, these concerns are for what happens when the PTFE is heated to very high temperatures where PTFE begins to produce toxic gases but undergoes significant breakdown.5 Even mild exposure can cause respiratory issues due to the production of toxic gases.
One key use of PTFE and PFAS is in insulation materials where exposure to these high-temperature conditions is very likely, as well as during the manufacturing process.
While there is still some discussion as to exactly what the health implications of PFAS exposure are and what safe limits are, there are particular concerns that PFAS exposure may increase the risk of some cancers, increase cholesterol and interfere with reproductive function as well as leading to development delays in children.4 It is clear then that alternative chemicals that can imbue textiles with desirable properties similar to what is achievable with the use of PTFE and PTAS are needed, but that come without the potential health risks.
Polyurethane coated fabrics
One solution may be in the form of polyurethane coated fabrics. Polyurethane coated fabrics offer many of the same waterproofing properties, breathability and advantages as PFAS coated fabrics, but polyurethane coated fabrics do not have the same level of health and environmental concerns.5 Polyurethane coated fabrics often have excellent durability due to the urethane bonds and the polyurethane coatings are straightforward to incorporate into may textile processes.
Polyurethane coated fabrics are being successfully used in masks and personal protective equipment, clothing and high-performance textiles for advanced applications.6
Armatex PUF Series for industrial applications
Recently, Mid-Mountain has developed a new product to replace PTFE coated fabrics in industrial environments: polyurethane coated fabrics.
Mid-Mountain’s new product line, the Armatex® PUF Coated Fabric Series offers many of the properties found in PTFE coated materials commonly found in industrial applications:
- Superior strength: The Armatex® PUF Series has all the strength of high-strength fiberglass.
- Superior resistance: Armatex PUF® coated fabrics are resistant to oils, chemicals and solvents and have excellent sealing properties.
- Improved insulation: Polyurethane coated fabrics also offer excellent electrical and thermal insulation, so are an excellent alternative to PTFE/PFAS materials with no risk of toxic gas production.
- Safety first: Polyurethane coated fabrics are excellent for fabricating insulation jackets or blankets that can be used even at very high temperatures with no risk of degradation or toxic gas production.
- Significantly lower environmental impact: polyurethane coated fabrics can degrade over significantly shorter timescales and are safe to dispose of when compared to PFTE/PFAS fabrics. Therefore polyurethane coated fabrics do not contribute so significantly to landfill and other issues.
Contact us today to learn how the new Armatex® PUF Coated Fabric Series can replace PTFE coated fabrics in a safer, more environmentally friendly and efficient way. Say goodbye to risky PTFE coated fabrics and see the benefits of polyurethane coated fabric materials instead.
References and Further Reading
- Cousins, I. T., Dewitt, J. C., Glüge, J., Goldenman, G., Herzke, D., Lohmann, R., Ng, C. A., Scheringer, M., & Wang, Z. (2020). The high persistence of PFAS is sufficient for their management as a chemical class. Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, 22(12), 2307–2312. https://doi.org/10.1039/d0em00355g
- US Environmental Protection Agency, (2019), https:// www.epa.gov/sites/production/?les/2019-02/documents/, EPA’s per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) action plan, accessed August 2023
- Sajid, M., & Ilyas, M. (2017). PTFE-coated non-stick cookware and toxicity concerns: a perspective. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 24(30), 23436–23440. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0095-y
- EPA (2023) PFAS, https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas, accessed August 2023
- Choi, M., Kim, Y., Park, S., Ka, D., Kim, T., Lee, S., Sohn, E. H., Jin, Y., & Hong, J. (2021). Functionalized Polyurethane-Coated Fabric with High Breathability, Durability, Reusability, and Protection Ability. Advanced Functional Materials, 31(24). https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202101511