Bad news for ski addicts who crave speed: The ski wax that makes skis go faster could cause cancer. Scientific American reports on new research that suggests ski wax users are exposed to perfluorochemicals, with potentially deadly results. Two recent studies found high levels of PFCs in the blood of the wax technicians working for World Cup teams, who inhaled fumes and airborne wax particles for some 30 hours a week during the five-month race season. Their median levels of one compound, called PFOA, were as much as 45 times higher than normal.
And their PFC levels got higher the longer they were on the job, pointing to the fact that the compounds build up in the body. High-fluoro wax can cost as much as $100 a gram (that's $2,800 an ounce), meaning most casual skiers aren't using them. But they're heavily used at competitions—including junior race events, where parents and young skiers may be layering the stuff on without being aware of its dangers: PFCs carry health risks like cardiovascular disease, liver damage, hormone disruption, and cancer. Companies keep their secret formulas close to the vest, but researchers found PFCs in the 11 race waxes they analyzed. Use the wax in a well-ventilated space, and use a respirator, recommends one study author—who adds that "there is no need to worry too much if one only intends to wax the occasional one or two pair." (Read more ski wax stories.)