Fede Fontana: Farewell to Fluorocarbons
After several years of preparation, the IBU 2023-24 season will begin with a full ban on fluorocarbons, which have been used for decades. What will change for teams? How will IBU manage testing? U.S. Biathlon Team Manager Federico ‘Fede’ Fontana, one of the sport’s most renowned experts on ski preparation, talked to Heartbeat about the impacts and how U.S. Biathlon has been preparing.
Fontana grew up in Frassinoro, Italy, a legendary hotbed of modern ski preparation. In the interview he speaks to the history of fluorocarbons in ski wax, dating back to the 1980s, and the dangers they ultimately presented to both the environment and to technicians working in wax cabins.
Over the past years leading up to the ban, IBU has also worked in concert with the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS), which is implementing its ban this season, as well, across all of its sports. At the first FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in October, the sport also had its first disqualification due to elevated levels of fluorocarbons in a ski.
A popular coach, manager and ski technician, Fontana has a great sense of history and perspective on the future that he shares on Heartbeat. He will also regale listeners with a rather incredible personal goal he achieved this summer.
Listen in to this important episode of Heartbeat, with one of the sport’s legendary figures.
What are fluorocarbons? Why are they bad?
Fluorinated waxes contain chemicals that are part of a group called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), among them are perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate – more commonly referred to as PFOA and PFOS. These man made water repellent compounds were introduced in the 1950s and found their way into household products (think nonstick cookware). The chemicals found their way into ski wax in the 1980s with their water repellent properties equating to increased speed of skis.
Why are they harmful? Most notably, they simply do not break down in the environment … ever. Studies have shown that they impact the ozone layer. In humans, research has linked them to respiratory ailments, cancer and other illnesses. In typical fine powder applications on skis, they are easily inhaled.
The International Biathlon Union (IBU) announced that it will implement a full ban of ski preparation products containing fluoro at all its event series from the 2023/2024 season onwards. The IBU committed to banning fluoro products used in ski preparation in 2020 based on the apparent health risks and environmental concerns connected to fluorine waxes. Working with Bruker, a leading manufacturer of high-performance scientific instruments, while maintaining a close collaboration with the International Ski Federation (FIS) through a joint working group, the IBU has developed an effective testing method using the Alpha II device. The device provides reliable testing to ensure fluor-free biathlon competitions. IBU will test to ensure that skis are fluor-free at each IBU event, guaranteeing the integrity of competitions and a level playing field. More …
The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) announced that the fluoro wax ban will be fully implemented at the start of the upcoming 2023/2024 winter season. FIS has remained committed to banning fluor products used in ski preparation given the health risks and environmental concerns connected to fluorine waxes. Working with Bruker, a leading manufacturer of high-performance scientific instruments, while maintaining a close collaboration with the International Biathlon Union (IBU) through a joint working group, an effective and accurate testing method was developed. More …