Five European countries have proposed new legislation that could see HFCs and HFOs classed as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – and covered by tighter regulations.
PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that are very persistent in the environment and the human body. They do not break down, and can accumulate over time. They are commonly found in products we use daily, such as non-stick cookware, pizza boxes and stain repellents. There is also evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. Some PFAS have already been phased out in different parts of the world.
The proposal put forward by Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden could widen the scope of PFAS to include some HFCs and HFOs, and restrict their manufacture, sale and use through the REACH regulation by July 2022. It would place the burden of proof on chemical companies to identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU. They would have to demonstrate how the substance can be safely used, and communicate risk management measures to end-users.
The joint proposal comes as concerns continue to surface about the long-term environmental impact of trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), one of the degradation products of some HFCs and HFOs.
“All PFAS are, or ultimately transform into, persistent substances, leading to irreversible environmental exposure and accumulation,” reads the proposal.
“Due to their water solubility and mobility, contamination of surface, ground, and drinking water and soil has occurred in the EU as well as globally, and will continue. It has been proven very difficult and extremely costly to remove PFAS when released to the environment. In addition, some PFAS have been documented as toxic and/or bioaccumulative substances, both with respect to human health as well as the environment.
“Without taking action, their concentrations will continue to increase, and their toxic and polluting effects will be difficult to reverse.”
The five countries involved are now seeking stakeholder feedback. To read the proposal, click here.