What Is PFOA and Why It Is Banned in EU REACHWhat Is PFOA and Why It Is Banned in EU REACH | APA Engineering

On May 3rd 2019, more than 180 countries agreed to ban the production and use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds under the international Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

The EU, which is a key party to the UN’s Stockholm convention, agreed to a complete ban on the chemical, effective from July 4th 2020.

But before digging deep into the exemptions made, let’s get a clear understanding as to what is PFOA?

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 or C8F15O2H, is a man-made chemical. It has been used in the process of making Teflon for several years and similar chemicals (known as fluorotelomers). C8, its salts, esters, higher homologous and precursors fall under the PFOA group. Studies have found that it is present worldwide at very low levels in just about everyone’s blood. Higher blood levels have been found in community residents where PFOA has contaminated local water supplies. People exposed to PFOA in the workplace can have levels many times higher.

Few common examples of PFOA

PFOA is largely used in the polymerization process as an aid. Fluoropolymer, a fluorocarbon-based polymer, is extensively used in the manufacturing of automotive components which include fuel hoses, gaskets, wire insulations, bearings, etc.

The European Union Set the following concentration limits for PFOA:

● Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or any of its salts equal to or below 0.025mg/kg (0.0000025% by weight) present in substances, mixtures or articles

● Combination of or any individual PFOA-related compound equal to or below 1mg/kg (0.0001% by weight) present in substances, mixtures or articles

● PFOA-related compounds equal to or below 20mg/kg (0.002% by weight) where they are present in a substance to be used as a transported isolated intermediate and fulfilling the strictly controlled conditions concerning the production of fluorochemicals with a carbon chain equal to or shorter than six atoms

● PFOA and its salts equal to or below 1mg/kg (0.0001% by weight) where they are present in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) micro powders produced by ionizing irradiation of up to 400 kilograms or by thermal degradation as well as in mixtures and articles for industrial and professional uses containing PTFE micro powder

PFOA chemicals are now being massively replaced in the EU, but unfortunately by similar perfluorinated substances with lower fluorine levels, despite the fact that they don't need to be in most products.

There still seems to be some disparity amongst the various organizations related to these harmful chemicals. For instance, the International Material Data System(IMDS) substance group contains 24 substances including PFOA and its salts. On the other hand, the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List of 2020 consists of 114 PFOA related substances.

Some European countries (e.g., Denmark or the Netherlands) are proposing to tighten the EU ban and ban all perfluorinated substances for this ban’s effective outcome.

Removal from REACH Annex XVII

The public consultation of the PFOA ban, which ended on Dec 5th, invoked many comments on concerns over the discrepancies between the derogations in the existing REACH restriction on PFOA, its salts & related compounds, and the exemptions in the draft Act.

The removal of PFOA from REACH Annex XVII is a major reason as to why PFOA is garnering the much-needed attention.

The Stockholm Treaty partners also gave global, five-year exemptions for PFOA and its chemical cousins used in semiconductor manufacturing, worker-protection textiles, medical devices, and photographic coatings on films.

There are several derogations in place for use in fire fighting foam.

Exemption on Articles

● Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and its derivatives (PFOS) covered by the Regulation (EC) No 850/2004;

● Articles placed on the market before 4 July 2020;

● Implantable medical devices as defined by Council Directive 93/42/EEC;

● Articles coated with photographic coatings;

● Semiconductors or compound semiconductors.

PFOA is considered a ‘forever chemical’, which means that it is present almost everywhere, like in a typical household in the form of a non-stick pan. PFOA also contaminates our drinking water. Due to such adverse effects of the chemical, it only makes sense to bring out stronger global regulations and ensure they are enforced in the right way.

Wondering if anyone can help you navigate through the intricacies of these regulations? APA Engineering has helped numerous businesses in successfully managing their compliance requirements. Do you want to know more? Get in touch today.

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