FIS fluoro wax ban – does it have a point? Update 10/10/2020
FIS Council has decided to postpone the implementation of the ban of fluorinated waxes until the start of the 2021-22 season, beginning on July 1, 2021. Due to unforeseen delays in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic, the FIS Working Group concluded that the testing device will not be ready to be implemented by the start of the upcoming season.
According to an Instagram notice Mr. Mignerey of FIS said, that implementing the fluoro wax ban may take years.
As of: 28/11/2019
Last weekend, performance-oriented skiers were confused by an announcement saying that as of the next competition season (i.e. the 2020-21 ski season) the use of fluoro waxes in all FIS races will be prohibited. A detailed written statement is apparently not yet available.
ZIPPS determines what this regulation does not apply to:
- To all competitions in the winter of 2019/2020, from the World Cup to the big fun run.
- To biathlon competitions, because they are not subject to the supervision of the FIS, but are under the jurisdiction of the IBU.
- To natural track luge athletes, because they also have their own association.
- To skiers who do not participate in FIS competitions, now and in the future. This means that the regulation is irrelevant to leisure sports and training, and, for example, to intra-club competitions.
ZIPPS comments and informs:
- What amounts are we talking about? According to one of the main fluoro wax manufacturers, which supplies its products to the various wax companies for further processing, the global annual production of fluoro wax is about 6 tonnes. The smallness of this figure makes sense, because fluoro wax makes up only a very small part of most ski waxes.
- What is fluorine and what do the waxes contain? Fluorine is a gaseous element that occurs in nature only in compounds. Ski waxes contain perfluoroalkanes and perfluoroalkylalkanes (PFC). The best known perfluoroalkane is Teflon. Teflon is widely used in the household (e.g. in pans) and in technology (e.g. in bearings, seals and lubricants). These substances are chemically inert. They are there, they are durable (like glass, for example), but do no observable harm to humans or nature.
- What is dangerous about them? The problem is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFOA has been banned in the EU since 2017 and in many other countries as well. Studies have shown that these acids can pose a health risk when administered orally in high concentrations and over a long period of time. They were needed in the synthesis of perfluoroalkanes and they have a long persistence in the environment. Now there are alternatives. Of course, it is important to protect people and the environment, and as always in these cases, the amounts to which people and the environment are exposed must be taken into account.
- How much PFOA does ski wax release? The intermediates from the raw materials still contain PFOA impurities. However, process improvements will continue to reduce the impurity levels. Even assuming an annual consumption of 10 tonnes of fluoro wax worldwide, this currently equates to a total amount of no more than 300 to 500 g PFOA produced by ski waxes each year. This can be calculated from analysis data. Part of this amount is brushed off, removed and incinerated or dumped, so it does not get into the environment or human beings if the waste is properly disposed of. By way of comparison, China alone produced more than 200 tonnes of PFOA for fluoroplastics manufacture (PTFE and PFA) in 2006, but here too the trend is downward.
- What is the legal situation in the EU? New directives will apply throughout the EU from 2020. To avoid PFOA, the commonly used C8-based fluorinated waxes may still be sold off until 7-4-2020. From that date onward only waxes based on so-called C6 technology may be sold. These are completely different shorter-chain fluorine compounds, which do not form any PFOA. Products sold after this date may only contain 25 ppb PFOA from intermediates.
- What limits apply in the EU? Here is a quote from the German Federal Environment Agency in May 2017: When PFOA, its salts or precursor compounds are included as a component of another substance, in a mixture or in a product – for example, in impregnation sprays, textiles and food packaging – limit values of 25 ppb (equivalent to 25 μg/l) apply to PFOA and its salts, and 1000 ppb (1000 μg/l) to precursor compounds.
- How will the EU directives affect the fluorine problem? The EU directives effective from 2020 will reduce the annual global amount of PFOA in 10 tonnes of fluoro ski waxes to 0.25 g or 250 mg. The amount released into the environment will then be about 150 - 200 mg worldwide.
- What impact will the EU directives have on ski wax? Most wax companies have long been aware of the legal situation and have prepared for it. ZIPPS has already converted many of its waxes to the environmentally friendly C6 technology and will have all of its products adapted to it by mid-2020. The good thing is that, thanks to our recipes, ZIPPS waxes will lose none of their qualities as result of the conversion.
ZIPPS takes stock:
- It is difficult to understand the FIS decision and it should be urgently revised! The ski slopes and tracks where skiers will stop using fluoro waxes are small compared with the other ski areas. The fluoro wax ban cannot be expected to bring about any real reduction in PFOA impact, given the many other domains in which PFOA plays a role. However, the new EU directives are appropriate and adequate for the purpose.
- Proof of infringement will be nearly impossible. Does any fluorine detected come from the person being checked or from the skier that preceded him? Did it come from last year’s brush or from training runs? Implementing the ban will only lead to injustice.
- The decision must be quickly published in full to prevent uncertainty and confusion.
- The FIS statement as we read it in the press – that the decision will make skiing fairer and even make it less expensive – is quite wrong. There will still be different skis, coatings, grindings, structures – and wax qualities. And that's just as well, because that's part of what makes skiing what it is. The development of new coatings and waxes with substances that compensate for the absence of fluorine will make skiing more expensive rather than cheaper.
ZIPPS is prepared.
If the FIS decision is maintained in its current form, ZIPPS will quickly be able to offer fluorine-free products in addition to the fluorinated types.
Customers who are already looking for fluorine-free products can order the following items immediately.