We have shown that we can create superior lubricants that are environmentally friendly and non-toxic. It’s time for the cycling industry to take a stand against PFAS and related ‘forever chemicals’ which pose threats to our water systems and our lands.
Many modern conveniences come from developments in fluorinated chemicals made in the 1950’s and 1960’s. These chemicals known collectively as PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) were hailed as magic when first invented for their amazing properties. They have since been used in everything from food packaging and commercial household products like stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (most famously Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams and for a while became nearly ubiquitous in the realm of lubricants. Sadly, along the way, these chemicals have also become ubiquitous in our oceans, waterways, and even our bodies.
Extensive research has been done on PFAS and the results are troublesome, they hardly, if ever, break down and have the capacity to accumulate in the human body and stay there, posing risks for public health. That’s why they’re called ‘forever chemicals’. They just won’t go. And although these products have nice benefits, they are not nearly worth the long-term damage they can do to humans and the environment. PFAS chemicals in the human body have been scientifically linked to low birth weight in babies, increased testicular and kidney cancer, increased cholesterol levels, reduced antibody response in children to vaccines, and reduced immune response to viruses.
And yet, many cycling ‘Dry Lubes’ and greases, continue to be made using PFAS, and many of the ‘cleans as it lubes’ types of products are PFAS chemicals such as Teflon suspended in a fast-evaporating, volatile solvent such as Heptane or Pentane, both of which are strong greenhouse gases, but are also listed by the EPA as ‘toxic to aquatic life with lasting effects’. Why are we putting this on a bicycle chain to ride through the woods, or even to ride along the road where it can flake or drip off only to be carried away by rain water?
SILCA wants to kick off the conversation by saying that we don’t NEED PFAS chemicals, and in fact, there are equally good if not superior lubricating technologies that are completely safe and non-toxic. We want to lead a revolution in the way we think about lubricants in this industry, there is no reason bicycles should be contaminating the environments in which they ride, and also no reason the cycling industry needs to keep producing or recommending these products.
As part of our full environmental and public health vision, we are committed to full transparency of the health and safety of our lubricants. Many have asked if it is perhaps a mistake for a company to give away our lubricant ingredients, particularly when these lubricants are winning independent lab testing as well as industry awards for reducing friction and drivetrain wear, but for us, we hope to lead a revolution, and we hope that our transparency, combined with all the test results and awards can help push the industry to follow us down this safer, healthier, more responsible path.
Super Secret and Secret Blend chain lubricants are made from medical grade paraffin wax (approved for contact inside the body and so can be eaten), water, medical-grade alcohol, and Tungsten Disulfide (WS2). The last one is considered environmentally safe and is even approved for use in paint for boat hulls and constructions that are in contact with water, as the lubricating properties of the WS2 help with removal of barnacles and invasive mussels.
This material has been extensively tested for water contamination and is considered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Food and Drug Administration to be completely safe and non-toxic to marine life.
Synergetic is a blend of 2 fully synthetic Type V oils, both of which are listed as ‘'Environmentally Approved' lubricating oils by the EPA, and both of which have an NSF rating as ‘Safe for incidental contact with food’ when used in food processing equipment. We blend these oils along with the WS2, same as used in Super Secret Chain Coating & Secret Blend to create an environmentally safe lubricant which has also been tested to reduce chain wear by as much as 95% when compared to dry lubes using PFAS chemicals.
We feel that the time to act is now, and we ask the industry to stop manufacturing lubricants containing PFAS additives as well as additives that require PFAS precursors or additives that result in PFAS waste streams. We also ask the cycling industry to stop using Pentane and Hexane in the creation of ‘Dry Lubes’ and lubes that purport to ‘Clean as they lube’, and we ask retailers and consumers to seek out environmentally responsible lubricant options and to stop the demand for these toxic and polluting lubes.
References & further information:
- Research information in this article is based on this article from the U.S. EPA
- For more entertaining information on PFAS watch this episode of Last Week Tonight
- PFAS health effects from CDC: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/index.html
- Environmental effects of Heptane and Pentane: https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/31911/what-makes-pentane-hexane-heptane-and-octane-dangerous-while-butane-and-nona