The EU regulation of PFOA published

In the News blog from December 15, 2016, it was discussed, that EU had decided to ban the production and use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (EC 206-397-9; CAS 335-67-1) and related chemicals used in production of fluoropolymers, textiles, paper and fire-fighting foams, because of their unique properties, with high stability and extremely low surface tensions.

Now, on June 13, 2017, the European Commission has published the Regulation of PFOA, its salts and related chemicals by amending Annex XVII in the REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006.

PFOA

PFOA

The regulation is rather complicated covering many related chemicals and with many exemptions.

Chemicals covered:

  1. PFOA with the formula C7F15-COOH.
  2. Any related substance (including its salts and polymers) having a linear or branched perfluoroheptyl group with the formula [C7F15-] directly attached to another carbon atom, as one of the structural elements. Thus, all the functional derivatives of the acid, such as esters and amides are included. Therefore, in practice, all existing and non-existing molecules containing a perfluoroheptyl group is regulated.
  3. Any related substance (including its salts and polymers) having a linear or branched perfluorooctyl group with the formula [C8F17-] as one of the structural elements. Here the fluorocarbon chain is one carbon longer, and the acid would be perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA). However, PFNA and its derivatives are excluded from the regulation. The same are C8F17-halogenider and any derivative of the structural elements [C9F19-]. This part of the regulation is mending to include all the 8:2 fluorotelomers with the structural element [C8F17CH2CH2-], of which there are a lot. These fluorotelomers can degrade to a. o. PFOA and PFNA in organisms and the environment.

PFNA

PFNA

Examples of 8:2 Fluorotelomers:

CAS 678-39-7                                8:2 Fluorotelomer alcohol

CAS 2043-53-0                             8:2 Fluorotelomer iodide

CAS 27905-45-9                           8:2 Fluorotelomer acrylate

CAS 1996-88-9                             8:2 Fluorotelomer methacrylate


8 2 fluortelomer alcohol

8:2 Fluorotelomer alcohol

General ban:

The chemicals covered shall not from 4 July 2020 be:

  1. Manufactured, or placed on the market as substances.
  2. Used in the production of other substances.
  3. Placed on the market as a constituent of other substances, mixtures or articles in a concentration ≥ 25 ppb of PFOA (incl. salts) and ≥ 1000 ppb of the sum of PFOA related substances. Exempted is articles and fire-fighting foam mixtures placed on the market before 4 July 2020.

Delay of enforcement:

The ban is delayed until 4 July 2022 for use in:

  1. Equipment used to manufacture semi-conductors.
  2. Latex printing inks.

The ban is delayed until 4 July 2023 for use in:

  1. Textiles for the protection of workers from risks to their health and safety.
  2. Membranes intended for use in medical textiles, filtration in water treatment, production processes and effluent treatment.
  3. Plasma nano-coatings.

The ban is delayed until 4 July 2032 for:

  1. Medical devices other than implantable medical devices. Production of implantable medical devices is completely exempted from this regulation.

Other exemptions:

  1. PFOS and derivatives. [Of course! These substances are covered by previous regulations.]
  2. Occurrence as unavoidable by-products of the manufacture of fluorochemicals with carbon chain ≤ 6 atoms.
  3. A substance that is to be used, or is used as a transported isolated intermediate.
  4. Photographic coatings applied to films, papers or printing plates.
  5. Photo-lithography processes for semiconductors or in etching processes for compound semiconductors.
  6. Concentrated fire-fighting foam mixtures that were placed on the market before 4 July 2020 and are to be used, or are used in the production of other firefighting foam mixtures, provided that, where they are used for training purposes, emissions to the environment are minimized, and effluents collected are safely disposed of.

My assessment

This regulation on PFOA and related substances is, like the previous one on PFOS, very weak and will not significantly reduce the environmental and human exposures to these hazardous chemicals in Europe. It gives the grey industry free hands to produce and to market obsolete products, and all the previous industrial uses of PFOA and related chemicals will be allowed to continue.

The regulation will mainly have an effect on future consumer products, where PFOA and related substances already have been phased out voluntarily by most producers.

There are no reasons to do a weak ban, because the main part of the fluorochemical industry has in 2015 terminated their worldwide production of PFOA and other C8-fluorochemicals after an agreement with the US EPA in 2008.

It is very sad that EU reacts as a “paper tiger” concerning protection of the European people and environment against hazardous chemicals, as they talk so much about, but in reality does so little and late about.

This post is also available in: Danish

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