Environmental sin fluorine – The search for ski wax without poison – Knowledge


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At the Winter Games in Beijing, fluorine ensured fast skis for the last time. But the super wax that is harmful to nature and people is banned from winter sports. In the race for the fluorine-free wax of the future, a family start-up from the Rhine Valley is also at the forefront.

The fastest are the best, but the best are not always the fastest. In winter sports, the right wax often decides whether you win or lose. The previous miracle weapon fluorine is banned.

Desperately looking for a sliding layer that is as fast as it is environmentally friendly. “The ban on fluorine set wax technology back 30 years,” says Andrej Neff, who, as head of research and development for “Non Fluor”, is feverishly looking for viable replacement products. If they exist.

Bad for the environment, good for competition

Up to now, fluorowaxes have been the ultimate. They keep the skis gliding because they allow moisture, dirt and grease to roll off even in wet conditions. These qualities decide races, especially in cross-country skiing. “In wet snow, top athletes lose one to one and a half minutes over 15 kilometers without fluorine wax,” estimates Swiss ski man Neff.

In wet snow, top athletes lose one to one and a half minutes without fluoro wax for 15 kilometers.

But fluorine has a big catch: With the super wax, a dangerous amount of poison sticks to the base. Compounds with a lot of carbon are particularly bad. So-called C-8 compounds do not break down either in the environment or in living beings. Fluorocarbons can damage organs that affect fertility and are suspected of being carcinogenic.

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Ski Association under time pressure

They have been banned in the EU since mid-2020. The international ski association FIS has taken over the ban. Other fluorowaxes, with C-6 molecules or lower, were still allowed to be used at the Beijing Winter Games. But that will be the end of next season.

According to his own statements, Andrej Neff has tested around 250 new and fluorine-free waxes for Swiss Ski in the last year and a half. A handful showed up in the tests as possible alternatives. But, according to Neff: “In the wet area, I haven’t found anything that could compete with the fluorine waxes.”

In the wet area I haven’t found anything that could compete with the fluor waxes.

The “Non Fluor” tester at the Swiss Ski Association is under time pressure. By next season he has to present the Swiss Ski teams with a wax alternative that is as fast as it is ecological.

Maybe the new miracle weapon comes from a basement room in the St. Gallen Rhine Valley. A family startup claims to have found the solution for an environmentally friendly yet perfect single layer: it’s called Indigo. Just like the dye in every blue jean.

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