EU Implements New Restriction That Could Halt All Production and Sales of PFAS
- 16-Feb-2023 1:42 PM
- Journalist: Motoki Sasaki
Europe: Every year, around 75,000 tonnes of PFASs make their way into the European environment - a reality that the Swedish Chemicals Agency and authorities in four other European nations are looking to tackle.
In a new proposal to limit emissions, the Swedish Chemicals Agency and other European authorities have suggested banning all production and sales of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). As PFAS are used in many products such as textiles, fluorinated gases, and medical devices, the chemicals agency warns that failure to limit their use could lead to an increase in annual emissions.
"This is a historically extensive restriction proposal," states Director General of the Swedish Chemicals Agency Per Angquist. "It concerns more than 10,000 substances that are used widely in society and many of which are proven to be harmful to both people and the environment. When the proposal goes through, it will lead to these emissions ending."
A group of synthetic chemicals known as PFAS is found in many consumer and industrial products. Unfortunately, their persistence in the environment has prompted a need to reduce their release. If not, humans, plants and animals will be increasingly exposed to these contaminants, which may have negative consequences for public health and the environment.
In Sweden, the PFAS issue has created a stir due to emissions of firefighting foam that have led to the contamination of drinking water sources across the country. This has become a major point of conversation and attention as the effects are felt throughout the nation.
During the summer of 2020, the International Electronics Manufacturers Group (IPC) conducted a study to gain insight into the production and use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The aim of this research was to determine the dependence of the electronics industry on PFAS chemicals and how they are employed in electronic products and their manufacturing processes.
A recent study has revealed that the semiconductor industry is highly dependent on perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - with one such substance, Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), being used to insulate cables for various electrical and electronic applications. PTFE-insulated wires and cables can be used in areas of extreme temperatures or where high amounts of data transmission are needed, such as automotive electronics, medical equipment and data centres. Additionally, those same PTFE insulated materials can be employed in rigid, flexible and hybrid printed circuit boards (PCB) that are commonly utilized in high-frequency or microwave applications.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency reported that significant time and effort was put into the proposal, with a comprehensive study conducted that examined the production, sale, and largest emission sectors of PFAS. The EU estimates 75,000 tonnes of emissions per year, and if no action is taken, these levels could rise in the future.
A new proposal has been put forward to tackle the usage of PFAS. It suggests a transition period of 18 months, following which all use of these compounds would be restricted in order to reduce 95% of the total emission over 30 years.
Companies may be granted temporary exemptions if they are using PFAS for protective clothing and medical technology products that do not have any alternative options. This will allow them to still utilize the essential functions of PFAS while research into better alternatives continues.
There is now a proposal that would grant certain areas temporary exemptions from current regulations.
"This proposal means that several industries will have to adjust, but we are convinced that the costs resulting from continued emissions are even higher," states Per Angquist