WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO USE A NON-TOXIC WAX:
Toxic ski and snowboard waxes pose both human health risks and environmental hazards.
What toxins are found in other waxes?
The most toxic ingredient found in waxes are perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Perfluorocarbons are fully fluorinated compounds, synthetically produced by combining a hydrocarbon (like paraffin wax) with Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). The acid strips the hydrogen atoms off the carbon backbone and replaces them with fluorine atoms. The term “fluorocarbon” refers to any carbon-based molecule that has been fully or partially fluorinated. Therefore, the terms “PFC” and “fluorocarbon” are often used interchangeably.
Check the packaging of your wax of choice, if it has the words “fluoro” or “fluor” on the label, you are using a fluorocarbon and should understand the risks to your health and the environment.
Note: Molybdenum (Moly) is also problematic in large quantities, however, this study will focus on fluoros.
What is the Risk?
Fluorinated ski waxes (fluoros) are the most hydrophobic (water repellent). It is well known that fluoros help racers achieve the best times. But what is less well known is that fluoros also have the highest health and environmental impact. When fluorocarbons are exposed to high temperatures, toxic fumes are released. In ski and snowboard shops, technicians breathe these fumes. Prolonged exposure to the fumes of fluorocarbons is known to cause severe damage to respiratory passages, bloody noses, and increased levels of PFC in the blood. Some studies of such technicians have revealed PFC blood content levels up to 45% higher than the general population. In addition, the wax shavings produced during tuning are discarded and end up in landfills. Also, PFC and PFOA are known to be potent greenhouse gases.
The toxic impact of fluorinated waxes is further expanded when the wax is sheared off the base of skis and snowboards into the snow pack. In the spring, the toxins left behind by fluorinated waxes either remain in the ground or are carried down to the water table as non-biodegradable, environmentally hazardous molecules. PFC and PFOA remain in the environment as persistent organic pollutants, and do not naturally degrade to a harmless substance (1). Results of animal studies of PFOA indicate that it can cause several types of tumors, neonatal death, and may have toxic effects on the immune, liver, and endocrine systems. This why Teflon is also no longer used in cookware; it is produced by the same process as fluoros (using PFOA) and has been found to be carcinogenic (cancer causing).
What is the collective impact?
It may be more than you think. If one skier calculates how much wax he or she uses and leaves behind on the mountain over a season, it may not amount to much. However, according to the National Ski Areas Association, the 2016-2017 ski season had 9.2 million active skiers and snowboarders in the U.S. The NSAA estimates that between 1997 and 2017, the U.S. has had an average 10 million skiers and snowboarders participating in the sport per year. That results in more than 2 billion pairs of skis and snowboards shedding wax into the snow pack for 20 years in the United States alone. Fluorinated waxes have been available since the late 1980’s, and if only a fraction of skiers and snowboarders use fluoros, you can see how significant it is.
As the hazards of toxic waxes become more widely known and understood, environmentally aware skiers and snowboarders are inspired to find non-toxic wax sources. Glide-on Wax is the alternative. Rather than toxic chemicals, Glide-on has an inert (environmentally neutral) plasticizer ingredient that enhances speed, durability, and base protection. At Glide-on, we are proud to provide an excellent alternative to toxic waxes and believe this will be the wave of the future.
Lin Alicia Martin (owner and creator of Glide-on Wax) – Revised 10/13/18
(1) The EPA’s Final Report: “Microbial Transformation of Fluorinated Environmental Pollutants” found that microbial degradation of fluorinated molecules can occur. However, as the fluorinated compound degrades, it releases fluoride, which is a known neuro-toxin.