April Showers Bring PVC Free Rain Gear

By Kristie Turck •  Published 03/30/09 •  5 min read

Last updated on April 24th, 2022 at 05:11 pm

We got an email from a reader last week asking about rain gear.  I thought writing something up about it now at the beginning of Spring would be an appropriate time.  Traditionally, raincoats and hats are made with a PVC outer shell.   We try to avoid PVC for a multitude of reasons.

Dioxins: PVC or polyvinyl chloride (also referred to as vinyl) is one of the most toxic plastics made.  When created or burned, it releases dioxins which are some of the most dangerous synthetic chemicals out there.  They can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive system. It also may never stop off-gassing… ew.

Mercury & Phthalates: We are contaminated with chemicals released during a piece of PVC’s life including mercury, dioxins, and phthalates.   PVC is almost always made using phthalates to make it soft and flexible.  We avoid phthalates for some of the same reasons (reproductive health risks, potentially carcinogenic & hormone mimicking).

Environmental Bummer: PVC cannot be recycled.  In fact if one PVC container gets mixed into a batch of other plastics during recycling,  it makes that whole recycled effort a complete waste.   Producing PVC in plants has contaminated the air and ground water in surrounding areas with dioxins, which are dangerous to people and animals.

So What To Do?

I’ve looked around and found a few alternatives I think are better choices.  It seems to be the normal alternative for companies to use fabric coated with Polyurethane rather than PVC.  The reader who wrote in and I looked for the next step above that and came up empty handed.

In some situations, you don’t even need rain gear.  I’ve never bought my son a raincoat and we’ve survived on a simple windbreaker.  But if you live in really wet areas or need rain gear for a specific reason here are the ones we found that would be a safer choice.

puddlegearPuddleGear: This company has been around for a long time but was more recently taken over by a husband and wife team who really believe in the product.  All their rain gear is totally PVC and Phthalate Free and instead coated with ATEK – a Polyurethane-coated stretch fabric.  It’s a very light, soft, tear-resistant material and is wind and watertight. I had a chance to ask them about their Polyurethane coating,  they put me at ease:

“…when this particular Polyurethane is in its fully expanded state it is an “inert chemical”  meaning that it has no off gassing left to do.  Atek is fully expanded- and tested to be free of over 100 harmful chemicals.

Not all Polyurethane is PVC or Phthalate free– some who don’t heat seal their seams use PVC to make them waterproof…and Phthalates make the PVC soft.  Polyurethane is also a controlled application  when you make it so its not leached into the ground water like PVC plastics.

PuddleGear also gets certified by Öko-Tex – an organization that tests materials for over 100 harmful chemicals.  PuddleGear has jackets, pants, mitts and hats in sizes ranging from 6 Months to 9 years.  Order from their website PuddleGear.com.  Rain Jackets range from $50-$60 but are virtually indestructible and last forever.

  • aliengearAlien Kids RainCoat – PVC Free raincoats, cotton lined with a polyurethane shell.  You can find these at Hatley Stores on line and retail for about $40  These PVC Free raincoats come in a few different cute designs (I love the spaceships)and come in a range of kids sizes.  Find them at HatleyStores.com
  • llbeanLandsEnd Big/Little/Toddler Kids Solid Rain Slicker – Polyester-backed polyurethane shell fabric that’s more flexible than the usual PVC kind. Of course, it’s every bit as waterproof, with sealed seams to prevent leaks., cotton lined with a polyurethane shell. It’s unclear to us as to whether this is totally PVC Free based on what we learned from the folks at PuddleGear.  They retail for about $36.
  • landsendLL Bean Discovery Rain Jacket – For something a little less heavy duty LL Bean’s Rain Jackets might do the trick. These fleece lined jackets are covered with a waterproof nylon shell.  They are wind and rain resistant, as well as have reflective safety details.  LL Bean assures me that they seal the seams with nylon tape that is Polyurethane coated..jackets retail around $37.   Totally PVC Free.
  • ruggedbearRugged Bear Kids Pulyurethane Raincoats – These raincoats are polyester/cotton lined with soft polyurethane shell that is waterproof & windproof.  They heat seal the seams for additional waterproofing.  These are a bit more affordable than some other options retailing at around$20.

What About Boots?

bootsMost of the rain boots I’ve looked are made of rubber, but I have seen some made of PVC so make sure to read the materials before buying.  Rugged Bear carries a line of cute kids rain boots by FireChief made of natural rubber with a cotton lining, in bright fun colors for girls and boys.   They retail for about $18.   Check them out at Rugged Bear.

Healthy Child Healthy World has an article about this now as well, with some other alternatives to pick from.  Check out their article on their blog at Healthy Child Healthy World.