ESF Nordic Skier Competes in World University Games
Conducts study on perfluorocarbons between races
Posted March 2017
"I could talk about skiing and chemistry all day," said Sierra Jech, an ESF graduate student who has combined those passions.
Jech is a member of the 2017 Team USA Nordic Ski team that competed in the World University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in February. While there, she conducted research on the environmental and health impacts of fluorinated ski waxes.
Fluorinated ski waxes are related to the perfluorocarbons (PFCO) used in creating non-stick cookware. Because the compound repels water it's "extremely useful as a lubricant and helps the skis glide through the snow," she said.
She began her research while competing at the 2015 World University Games in Slovakia as an undergrad at the University of Wyoming. After analyzing snow samples from the games site, she was able to detect fluorocarbons -which are known to be carcinogenics with long-term exposure - in the samples. Scientists are concerned that ski waxes contribute to the build up of fluorocarbons in the flora and fauna of the Arctic, she said; those concerns are based on one study that looked at possible links between the environment and ski waxes. "It is simply understudied, so it's hard to know what the actual concern should be around these waxes," she said.
Her work in Kazakhstan took a different approach. "To really make this work applicable to the ski community, I wanted to address the fluorinated wax bans and the public debate surrounding them," she said. She interviewed ski wax technicians, coaches and athletes regarding any concerns about human and environmental health in connection to the fluorinated waxes.
Ski waxes are applied by heating them at high temperatures, which causes the molecules to vaporize, and can be inhaled by the technicians applying the wax, she said. Some waxes have been banned in the United States and Canada while manufacturing of the compounds has been banned in some European countries.
"There is no current research on the effects the specific ski compounds have had on the environment," she said. "There is significant evidence of direct human health risk to wax technicians who spend four-plus hours at a time breathing these compounds," she said. "The risk is mostly acute respiratory damage."
Technicians use respiratory masks, but the risk has been deemed significant enough to cause fluoro-bans in many ski conferences throughout the United States, she said.
"The amount that ski waxes contribute (to the environment) would be miniscule," she said. "However, if these volatile compounds are a concern in the Arctic (far from sources), then it is reasonable to also investigate local contamination near ski venues."
"The goal was to clarify the environmental risk with the data from Slovakia and link it directly to opinions from a large-scale international event in Kazakhstan. This would add real evidence to the fluoro-ban debate, which currently includes mostly speculation and little evidence," she said.
Jech found while most people were familiar with the health concerns connected to the waxes, they were unaware of the potential for environmental problems. "Some coaches plan to continue the practice to use all the different waxes and others care about human health and support the ban," she said.
There are also interesting socio-economic reasons for ski wax bans. "One argument for fluoro-wax bans is that they are expensive and result in a socio-economic divide within the ski community," she said. "Fluoro-bans help to level the playing field and put the focus on coaching athletes instead of the quality of the ski wax."
"I'm hoping to publish in a publication aimed at the skiing community," she said, but for now research on the waxes has come to and end.
Chemistry wasn't the main focus of her trip to Kazakhstan. "The World University Games is second only to the Olympics," she said, "with athletes having to prove they are registered in college coursework. The organizers emphasize scholarship equal to athleticism."
Jech qualified for the team based on her racing results from the 2015-16 ski season. Because she is not associated with a collegiate ski team, she was selected for Team USA as an independent. There are two techniques in the sport - classic and skate. Athletes must be able to do both. There are also sprint (1 kilometer) and distance (up to 30 kilometer) races. Most athletes compete in both types. Despite having not raced this year prior to the games, Jech was pleased with her performance. In the sprint, she finished 50th out of 54 racers, in the 5K skate race, she was 55th out of 62 and in the mixed-team sprint the team finished 22nd out of 29.
"Overall, Team USA had its strongest showing at the games so far," she said.
Without a Nordic ski team nearby, Jech trained on her own. "Syracuse has proved to be a wonderful place to train," she said. "In the early fall, I was running a lot of state and city parks. I also was able to compete with the SU Triathlon Club." Weight training, roller-skiing, biking and yoga round out her six-day a week training schedule.
"I have practiced balancing skiing and school since sixth grade," she said. "At this point, sport is the only thing that gets me through school, and school gets me through the boring training days. When I'm not able to train, I can't study as efficiently. It can be hard, but by now I know that I wouldn't be a successful student if I didn't make room for physical exertion to give my brain a break. It just takes some planning and good time management to get it all accomplished."
ESF Students Make their Mark
- ESF Student Participates in SEA SemesterMary Zarba conducts research aimed at protecting rare coral wilderness
- ESF Student Among Delegation Attending Committee on World Food SecurityLindsay Eberhart to travel to Rome for World Food Day ceremony
- ESF Student Designed Bridge Judged Most InnovativeStudents competed in the 2019 bridge design competition
- 2019 Commencement: 'You Are My Family,' Student Speaker SaysESF celebrates 118th class of spring graduates
- ESF Student Studies Sargasso Sea EcosystemAndrew Meashaw participates in SEA Semester
- ESF Announces Graduation Weekend ScheduleReceptions, honor recognition ceremonies mark achievements
- ESF Student Completes First Year of Leadership Training in BioeconomyDaniel De Souza Pegoretti recognized as CABLE graduate
- ESF-SU Team Scores Win in DOE Solar DecathlonStudents prevail in mixed-use/multifamily division
- Student Organizations, Leaders RecognizedSOLAR award recipients announced
- Student Honored with Chancellor’s AwardMarissa Lathrop to receive prestigious honor
- ESF Students Earn Spot in ‘Storyfest’ FinalsFive projects featured in annual environmental storytelling competition
- Fulbright Scholar Picks ESF for Study of Genetic Engineering TechniquePh.D. student researches threat to valuable European chestnut tree
- ESF Students Return to PR to Help with Continuing Relief EffortsRelief and education projects keep students busy
- ESF Student Participates in SEA Semester ProgramAquatic and fisheries science major sets sail in Lesser Antilles
- ESF to Celebrate December CommencementThree alumni to be honored as graduates of distinction
- ESF Students Ride to Ribbons in Horse ShowSU Western Equestrian Team puts ESF riders through their paces
- 38 ESF Students to Attend Zero Waste ConferenceGCI, ESSO support participation at meeting in Philadelphia
- Waste not, want notGrant Received for 3D printer filament recycling, production pilot plant
- Landscape Architecture Students Celebrate PARK(ing) DayTransformation of parking spaces calls attention to need for urban greenspace
- ESF, Ichor Therapeutics Team Up to Combat Age-related Illness ESF graduate students to assist with research
- Society of American Foresters Plays Key Role in Student’s ESF ExperienceRecent grad Alexa Denhoff encourages students to join professional society
- ESF Student Wins at COINS Grand ChallengeAward recognizes innovation in construction management
- ESF Students Return from Puerto Rico Students joined with SUNY, NYS, non-profits organizations to help rebuild Puerto Rico
- Mortarboards Fly and Students Become AlumniClass of 2018 celebrates achievements
- Chemistry Student Wins AwardJordan Pitt recognized by the American Chemical Society
- 14 ESF Students Set for Volunteer Work in Puerto RicoCollege joins SUNY, NY effort to support recovery efforts
- ESF Announces Commencement Weekend ActivitiesNumerous events celebrate students’ achievements
- Chemistry Graduate Student Wins AwardYuting Zhu honored by American Chemical Society
- Hello, Mr. President — About the Environment…ESF students pen Earth Day ‘elevator speeches’ for Donald Trump
- Two ESF Students Honored with Chancellor's AwardJet Lewis and Ben Taylor receive prestigious awards
- 3 ESF Students among Winners at SU RvD iPrize CompetitionFarm to Flame, Food for Community move on to state competition
- Smile! You’re On Canid CameraESF researcher seeks citizen scientists to help ID photos from trail cameras
- Acorns to Action Strives to Help Victims of Natural DisastersESF students focus on providing resources, knowledge to rebuild sustainably
- ESF Student Part of First-Place Team in Hult Prize CompetitionSayje Lasenberry is member of Farm to Flame Energy team
- Zachary Smith's Commencement SpeechEnvironmental studies major was chosen as student speaker
- Senior Accomplishes Goal: ‘Publish in a Journal’Environmental health major co-authors paper about discovery linked to fighting cancer
- ESF Students Participate in SEA Semester ProgramEFB majors set sail in the Atlantic Ocean
- Class of '17 Joins ESF Alumni RanksDegrees and ESF flags in hand, graduates celebrate accomplishments
- Chemistry Student Wins AwardGraduating senior Curtis Wilhelmsen recognized by environmental division of the American Chemical Society
- ESF Announces Commencement Weekend ActivitiesNumerous events celebrate students’ achievements
- ERE Major Builds Lengthy Resume at ESFTight-knit community, real-world experience made college stand out
- ESF Students Win StoryFest CompetitionTop prize is trip to Brazilian Rainforest for storytelling expedition
- Student from Nepal Finds Her Niche at ESFJyotika ‘Nicci’ Shah plans career in water quality
- ESF Education a Family Affair for Schiavone BrothersThree siblings share a major and a graduation date
- ESF Nordic Skier Competes in World University GamesConducts study on perfluorocarbons between races
- Academics, Athletics, Affordability Lure Soccer Captain to ESFHeather Carl makes her mark on campus
- Daily Adventures Mark Trip to South AmericaRosen Fellowship funds experience of a lifetime
- Student from Italy Finds Motivation at ESF"Here I am constantly pushed to do more"
- Walk on the Wild SideFellowship Funds Trip to South Africa
- USA President Focuses on Building RelationshipsBen Taylor leads 'growth year' for student government
- ESF Junior Honored as 'Unsung Hero'Shewa Shwani to receive award at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
- ‘Jet’ Lewis Builds Busy Life as ESF SophomoreCalifornia resident says diverse ideologies made ESF stand out
- Dedication to Environment Brings Student to ESF from Mexico'There is no other place like ESF,' freshman says
- Beer Eases Final Moments for Euthanized InvertebratesGraduate student seeks humane method for ending lives of research subjects
- ERE Major Tackles Wastewater Plan in IcelandFink Fellowship Supports Summer Abroad
- 44 ESF Students Spend Summer as DEC Interns‘Phenomenal’ range of work can help launch careers
- Paper Engineering Boosts Student through Semester AbroadGraduate-level classes and travel highlight trip to Germany
- ESF Alumnus Begins Peace Corps Service Caleb Rudge to spend two years in Paraguay
- Dream Becomes Reality for ESF SeniorRosen Fellowship supports summer internship in Stockholm
- Summer on the FarmFink Fellowship sends ESF junior to work on Thousand Islands farm
- SRC Fellowship Supports Student in Battle against Mosquitoes Chemical compound could help stop spread of disease
- ESF Landscape Architecture Students Receive ASLA HonorsHonor and merit certificates presented
- ESF Student Finalist for Olmsted Scholar AwardKathryn Chesebrough recognized for academic excellence
- ESF Graduate Joins Teach for America Peter LeDuc finds passion for teaching at ESF
- Advice for Graduates: Stay United, 'Enjoy Your Wisdom'Class of 2016 celebrates at Commencement
- Two ESF Students Earn SUNY Chancellor’s AwardFoley, Zubair honored for excellence
- Closed-Loop Art: Woodburner Uses Material at HandSenior donates artwork to Student Showcase Symposium
- Honors Student Works with 'Best Thing Ever': ElephantsTravel takes Yvonne Lim to Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
- ESF Ph.D. Student Selected as Junior Fellow in Korea
- The Cheer Fun of ItESF student leads SU cheer team
- Ph.D. Student Appointed to Federal Advisory PanelYang joins National Coal Council
- ‘Great Experience’ Takes Grad Student to BulgariaMLA student spends summer monitoring primitive horse population
- ESF Senior Wins Fulbright Research AwardGabriel Smith heads to Sweden to study fungi
- ESF Grad Student Awarded Rare Book School ScholarshipProgram delves into history of hand papermaking
- ESF Senior Honored at National STEM ConferenceCSTEP student Danielle Berry wins second place for poster
- Meghan JohnstoneTraveler in Australia, Nature Conservancy Intern
- Ryan HenrySU's biggest sports fan.
- Michael AmadoriAquaponics Research
- Lauren AlteioHarvard Forest Program
- Brookhaven National Laboratory InternsCourtney Buckley, Daniel Larkin, Michael Norman and Beverly Agtuca
- Brendan-Michael Galloway Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship
- Lynne BeattyMarine resources workshop participant
- Kristen AnthonyLandscape Architecture student, and SU competitive skier
- Craig LazzarEssay Contest nets ESF Senior $10,000
- Zachary KingBiotechnology Researcher
- Daniele BakerSUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence Recipient
- Greg BoydESF Senior, biodiesel expert
- Khristopher DodsonPublisher of Envi magazine
- Cara StaffordInvasive Plant Technician, Catalina Island
- Irony SadeBiotechnology Major
- April Karen BaptistePh.D. Candidate, Fulbright scholar, ESF
- Leah Dudziak & Lisa RuggeroTwo ESF Students on SU Dance Team