Hanna Holmquist

Life cycle assessment can assist substitution of hazardous water repellent substances in textiles

​Hanna Holmquist’s research has focused on how life cycle assessment can support the phase-out of hazardous chemicals used in durable water repellents applied to textile products, and on what kinds of information might motivate consumers towards a phase-out. Her doctoral thesis shows that LCA can provide relevant information to industries and policy makers in finding alternatives with greater environmental and human health performance. Furthermore, detailed information on hazardous substances can affect consumer behaviour. 
What challenges do you focus on your research? 
"Highly fluorinated substances are either stable or transform into stable degradation products in the environment. Therefore, these chemicals accumulate in the environment and there is a risk that if hazardous properties are discovered in the future, such as toxicity, it will be very difficult to eliminate the problem since they are persistent and some of them can spread widely. The precautionary principle, to act despite uncertainty, becomes important to avoid such risks. A big challenge in my research has been to develop ways to deal with a subset of these recalcitrant chemicals in life cycle-based assessments. These assessments are traditionally based on existing knowledge, and thus are difficult to combine with the precautionary principle." 
"Another challenge has been to understand what can motivate consumers with different values and norms to choose products that do not contain hazardous highly fluorinated chemicals."
How are you aiming to address or solve the problem with your research?
"It is now possible to make extensive life cycle assessments on textile products impregnated with highly fluorinated chemicals based on the method development and case studies I have done, also with some precautionary considerations."

"We also conducted a survey experiment to investigate consumers’ motivations to choose alternative garments to those impregnated with hazardous highly fluorinated chemicals, in which people were exposed to different types of information about the hazardousness of certain highly fluorinated chemicals."

What were the main findings of your research?
"The results of our life cycle assessment on a jacket impregnated with different alternative products shows that highly fluorinated chemicals should be phased out when only water repellency is required. This conclusion is based on a method where the precautionary principle was applied at least to a certain extent by use of emerging data. As highly fluorinated impregnation chemicals not only provide water repellency but also oil repellency, it would be reasonable to allow their continued use in particular applications, for example in medical products, until alternatives with equivalent function are available."

"Our survey experiment showed that Swedish consumers are highly motivated to choose products without hazardous highly fluorinated chemicals and how this motivation is related to values and norms. This can be useful information in the development of information campaigns and also support for stakeholders involved in the phase-out."
What do you hope your research will lead to?
"I hope that stakeholders involved in the phase-out of hazardous highly fluorinated chemicals in textile impregnation can make use of the results and methods presented in my research to support their further actions."

Text compilation: Carolina Pires Bertuol

More about Hanna Holmquist

The thesis defence will be held online via Zoom on 12 June 2020, at 08:30, find the link here

Published: Wed 02 Sep 2020.