Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): German Environmental Agency Publishes Report on Restriction Proposal

The German environmental agency, UBA, has published “Potential SVHC in environment and articles – information collection with the aim to prepare restriction proposals for PFAS on the use and spread of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances”. The report was created in preparation for a restriction proposal under REACH.

Two years ago, KEMI, the Swedish chemicals agency, together with the UBA, suggested limiting the use of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnA), perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoDA), perfluorotridecanoic acid, and perfluorotetradecanoic acid along with their salts.

The first goal of the authors of the current study was to combine information on long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs) groups with carbon chain lengths from C9 to C14) (project section 2016/2017). The second goal was to focus on the shorter carbon chains – most important those with C4 or C6 chain lengths in a second section (2017/2018).

Long-chain PFAS were never purposely manufactured and used. Instead, they appeared as undesired by-products during the manufacture and use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA). Short-chain PFAS, however, are an essential ingredient in fire-fighting foams and the production of semiconductors. According to industry estimates, it would be difficult or even impossible to find substitutes for these chemicals. A conversion to other substances would hit individual actors on the market hard. A transition period of 10 years would be needed to make the switch.

On its Web site, the Nordic Council of Ministers states that by now every human person has been affected by PFAS. The Council also published a report in which the authors estimate the health-related costs of PFAS at €52 to €84 billion for member states.

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