Pulling the thread:

In anticipation of my Seattle—Olympic Peninsula trip, I finally overcame my reluctance to spend money——especially for more clothing——and ordered a Gore-Tex parka.

Deadlines loom for newspaper columns, an obligation that I perversely enjoy because it places some discipline on me to write whether I want to or not, and requires me to research and learn something new before writing.  And so it seemed like researching the history of waterproof garments might be interesting as a topic.

By-passing for now the use of waxed and linseed— coated cotton, first for sails and then for rain gear, or the rubberized canvas discovered later by Macintosh (whose name persists on British raincoats till today), it is what I learned about Gore-Tex that has drawn my attention this morning, and towards which I point you as an FYI of some importance.

In 1969, Bob Gore discovered expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) which was introduced to under the trademark, Gore-Tex.[2] PTFE is made using an emulsion polymerization process that utilizes the fluorosurfactant PFOA,[3][4] a persistent environmental contaminant. As Gore-Tex is PTFE-based, PFOA is used in its production.[5]

PFOA is some bad shtuff.

PFOA — a key processing agent in making nonstick and stain-resistant materials — has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and is in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, including pregnant women. It has also been found in the blood of marine organisms and Arctic polar bears.

Read “Teflon Forever“about poor Wardie, the parakeet, a great introduction to a well done exposé of Teflon, Scotchguard, and Gore-Tex——all of which use this ubiquitous chemical.

If you have pets or children, breathe,  have carpet or wear clothes, you should read more on this topic.

I gotta go pack.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Gotta admit, I’m not that impressed with gore-tex. I had a gore-tex rain suit about 10 years ago and it leaked like a sieve after 3 years. Went back to other products that also leaked after a few years and did not breath. Then last year I broke down and bought a new gore-tex rain suit. Got wet last time I used it, but not sure if its because the hood was down. Still, nothing is perfect, but now that I know about the fact that its made out of a PFOA based product I’m even more weary.

    When I retire this my question will be what is the best way to retire this article?

  2. That’s a good question. This stuff is not designed with the “cradle to cradle” philosophy of planning for safe and efficient recycling of all components. I think you should pour concrete in a stainless steel drum, and embed the Goretex in the concrete for no less than a thousand years. That outta do it.