Restriction of Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS)
PFAS are a large family of thousands of man-made chemicals that are widely used throughout society (e.g. in textiles, electronics, food contact materials, medical devices, etc.).
All PFAS are, or ultimately transform into, persistent substances. PFAS, once released, will remain in the environment for ages. The extreme persistence of PFAS leading to irreversible environmental exposure and accumulation is a reason for major concern.
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 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.
Restriction under REACH
A restriction under the chemicals legislation (REACH) is considered the most effective tool to manage the risk from substances, such as PFAS, that are used in industrial processes but also in products (mixtures and articles). In addition, it is considered to be the most effective and efficient way to manage such a large and complex group of substances that are used in numerous applications.
The envisaged restriction proposal will cover the manufacture, the placing on the market and the use of PFAS. Derogations (with conditions) for certain uses might be possible under certain circumstances, e.g. if stakeholders can demonstrate that emissions over the whole life-cycle are minimised by appropriate measures and that continued use of PFAS in the application is important for society. Conceivable conditions for exemptions could be inter alia the setting of a concentration limit or introduction of a labelling requirement. Derogations can also be time-limited.
PFAS in the scope of this restriction proposal are defined as fluorinated substances that contain at least one aliphatic carbon atom that is both, saturated and fully fluorinated, i.e. any chemical with at least one perfluorinated methyl group (-CF3) or at least one perfluorinated methylene group (-CF2-), including fluoropolymers and fluorinated side chain polymers.
In a new survey [link], the information already collected by the authorities will be presented in summary form and stakeholders (associations and companies) as well as manufacturers and users of alternatives to PFAS will be asked to comment on it and, if necessary, to correct or supplement information. The aim here is to ensure that the information already available accurately reflects the current market situation and to fill any remaining data gaps in order to be able to present a tailored restriction proposal in the coming year.