Applications of fluorocarbon resin impregnating agents in industrial and institutional textile processing
Fields of application: Textiles that need to fulfil a special protective function and are regulated by European standards. The most important applications are personal protective equipment and operating theatre textiles.
In the field of personal protective equipment, the best known applications are protective clothing against chemicals according to EN 14325 and protective clothing for firefighting according to EN 469. The effect can be easily described on the example of clothing for firefighting. The goods need to be of low flammability and also protect wearers against water, fuels and other chemicals. This makes a finish with paraffin unthinkable, because this does not enable protection against fuels and many other chemical substances.
Expressed in a simplified manner, firefighters would be wrapped in a jacket which is coated with candle wax on the outside. To a lower or stronger degree, the alternative of silicon would involve the same problems. The disadvantages of coating with nanoparticles (lotus effect) are that no permanency against abrasion can be achieved and that nanoparticles (in particular their dusts) must be deemed highly critical to health.
Very large shares of protective clothing consist of membrane textiles. Without finish, these textiles get wet and, consequently, lose their breathability. For the wearer, this means working in a "plastic bag".
Moreover, firefighters' protective clothing loses its heat-insulating effect, because the transport of heat is much facilitated by the water stored in the clothing – as compared with clothing with air buffers.
Also protective clothing of police and military forces is finished with fluorocarbon resins in a targeted manner.
For operating theatre textiles according to EN 13795, a high level of protection to germs and viruses is required for patients and health care staff. Here, the tightness of textiles to all kinds of body fluids is necessary. The standard expressly demands resistance to germ penetration both dry and wet. In particular the performance level „high" is unlikely to be achieved without suitable finish and regular refreshing with fluorocarbon resins.
Resins used: Formerly based on C8 chemistry; mostly replaced by C6 as basis.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accepted the use of C6 chemistry, because there are no toxicological indicators. C8 chemistry stateside is to be phased out by 2015, with C6 chemistry replacing it.
Alternative single-use articles?
In principle, single-use articles would be conceivable. If restrictions for the use of fluorocarbon resins were introduced in the European Union, such articles would be manufactured outside the EU. As they could be imported under the legal definition "articles", they would not be subject to any restrictions. In their manufacturing processes, precisely fluorocarbon resins would be used – with the only difference of less emission control. At the bottom line, nothing would be done for the environment; there would be merely a different place of emission release. It is also worth noting that larger volumes of single-use articles would be transported and disposed than this is the case for reusable textiles.
(Translation for information purposes / Original: German, 2013-11-25)