Ski wax is popular this time of year for those who like to hit the slopes or cross the trails on skiis. The extra speed it provides could make the difference between winning or losing a big race or bragging rights at the end of the day. But that extra speed may come at a cost, especially for kids.
A new study has found that ski wax users are exposed to certain perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that build up in their bodies and may carry potentially serious health risks, including cardiovascular disease, liver damage, hormone disruption and cancer. And researchers are particularly concerned about kids and junior ski racers and parents who may layer on highly fluorinated race wax week after week without knowing how to handle it safely.
Two new studies, conducted in Sweden and Norway and published in September, found that wax technicians working for World Cup ski race teams had very high levels of PFCs in their blood - up to 45 times higher than the general population’s.
The companies that make ski waxes closely guard their formulas, so little is known about the exact ingredients in each product. But most race waxes contain water-repellant additives known as “fluoro”, and when the researchers in Norway analyzed 11 different race waxes, they found PFCs in every one.
These race waxes with the most flouro are expensive - as much as $100 a gram - so it's unlikely that the most dangerous stuff is used among general recreation skiers and snowboarders. But the products are all the rage at competitions, including junior race events.