Waxing activity as a potential source of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other environmental contaminants among the US ski and snowboard community
By Kathryn A Crawford, Brett T Doherty, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, Megan E Romano, and Birgit Claus Henn
September 20, 2022
Skiers and snowboarders apply waxes and solvents to their equipment to enhance glide across the snow. Waxing results in exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and particulate matter, which have been associated with adverse health effects among professional wax technicians in Scandinavia. However, little is known about exposure among people who participate at other levels of sport, including recreationally, in other regions.
We sought to characterize wax-related exposures among US skiers and snowboarders who participate across numerous levels of sport to expand scientific understanding of environmental health risks among this population.
We used an anonymous electronic survey to evaluate wax-related exposures among US cross-country and downhill skiers and snowboarders. Specifically, we assessed (Fang et al., 2020): duration of time involved with each sport in any role (Freberg et al., 2013), intensity of wax-related exposures based on time spent in waxing areas, wax use, and wax type (Rogowski et al., 2007), frequency of fluorinated wax application, and (Freberg et al., 2010) use of exposure interventions.
Participants tended to be long-term winter sports enthusiasts (e.g., median downhill skiing duration: 31 years). Nearly all (92%) participants personally applied some wax to their skis/snowboards and most applied waxes containing PFAS (67%) and solvents (62%). Ski professionals waxed the most pairs of skis with fluorinated waxes annually (median (IQR): 20 (1, 100)), though individuals participating recreationally also applied fluorinated waxes regularly. Exposure interventions were not widely used.
Waxing activities may pose significant risk of exposure to PFAS and other environmental contaminants among the US ski and snowboard community. Efforts are needed to reduce these exposures through changes to wax use patterns and broader adoption of exposure reduction strategies.