They say “Nothing lasts forever”, but not for PFAS. This group of strong toxic chemicals will theoretically last even if humans go extinct; unless, we do something about it now. If you’re an importer, supplier, manufacturer or any individual or company concerned with PFAS, here’s some essential information you need to know about these “forever” chemicals. At the end of your read, we’ll give you a takeaway on what the PFAS ban practically means for you and CAPLINQ.
What are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large, complex group of man-made chemicals (“forever chemicals”) having one of the strongest bonds (carbon-fluorine bonds) in organic chemistry. PFAS have been used throughout our society since about the 1950s from cooking ware to clothes due to the unique and superb qualities they impart to the finished products.
Why are PFAS regulated?
Most of the PFAS are persistent and easily transported in the environment perpetually exposing humans and other species to many detrimental effects such as cancer, reproductive and endocrine problems. Because of their persistence, some contaminate groundwater and drinking water sources. Furthermore, certain PFAS tend to accumulate in the human body which means that they don’t get excreted as much as they are taken in. Studies show that PFAS are indeed in the bloodstream of the majority of the human population. The use of PFAS is still expanding and based on the numerous studies made on its nature and its effects, PFAS have been regulated for about a decade now in most countries.
Lately, CAPLINQ has been receiving several requests from our European customers to provide declarations that our products are compliant with PFAS. This is understandable since the European Commission commits to phasing out all PFAS, allowing their use only where they are proven to be irreplaceable and essential to society. This means that the EU will put a global ban on the use, place in market and manufacture of around 10,000 PFAS. This is expected to enter into force at the end of 2026 or 2027.
Furthermore, PFAS are continuously being added to the EU REACH Candidate List of substances of very high concern (SVHC) leading to their restriction in the EU market. Once the ban is in force, companies will be given between 18 months and 12 years to introduce alternatives to the more than 10,000 PFAS affected, depending on the availability of alternatives, according to the draft proposal.
This matters significantly as this will affect a lot of manufacturers, importers and users of products or mixtures containing PFAS in many industries such as electronics, textiles and clothing, cosmetics, food contact materials, packaging and medical devices.
Products sold and manufactured by CAPLINQ are being continuously monitored by our suppliers and production ensuring compliance with PFAS-related regulations.
Besides the EU, how does the rest of the world regulate PFAS?
The regulations of PFAS vary around the world. In the European Union, under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the use, place in market and manufacture of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and PFHxS together with their salts and related compounds are banned. Some of the PFAS are already included in the REACH Candidate List of substances of very high concern (SVHC).
In the US, discussions on possible regulations for PFAS are still happening at the federal level. Law passed by the state of Maine prohibiting products made with intentionally added PFAS chemicals will take effect in 2030. Furthermore, USEPA has proposed a law to report PFAS in products at any concentration rather than any amount greater than 1% or 10,000 mg/kg.
On the other hand, Canada has regulated some PFAS under the “Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations”. There will be an upcoming Consultation on the draft State of PFAS Report and Risk Management Scope. Australia also plans to phase out PFAS and consistently monitors some of them under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. PFAS regulations are not yet well established in Asia and Latin America in general with the exemption of China and Japan.
What does the PFAS ban practically mean?
These are all proposed bans and exclusions. We still carry PFAS-containing products and formulations and we will still continue to support them until the laws take effect.
One example is the 3M Novec alternatives that were introduced to replace the 3M Novec electronic coatings that proactively stopped production. Since these are mostly Automotive materials, the qualification and sunset period is even longer so producing and supplying Nanoproof Novec alternatives will go well into the 30s. Similarly, carbon papers with MPL and PTFE layers are also still manufactured and supported.
The reality of the situation is that this will be a long and debated process that can easily last decades.
Until then there are two things that you need to consider:
- You need to start qualifying PFAS free alternatives. That’s why we have Green and PFAS free products for most of our portfolio. In the case, let’s say of electrolyzers, you are better off going for non MPL coated papers since you are still in the development stage and you don’t want to change your design a few years later
- Knowing the typical product life cycles, you also can and need to somehow continue production of your existing or upcoming products. Chances are your product lifecycle will end before the regulations take effect. And we are here to help you out during this process.
Naturally, we all want a greener, safer and better environment and we will continue following, abiding and informing you about all the new regulations and the realistic steps that you have to take.
Do you need help with REACH, and product registration? Unsure about the future of your product in the European market or elsewhere? Contact us and our compliance team will be happy to help.