The Danish and Norwegian Environmental Agencies have both just announced that the EU has decided to ban perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its derivatives and precursors. Precursors are chemicals which degrade into PFOA, for instance 8:2 fluorotelomers. In total hundreds of substances on the market will be banned. However, the ban will first be enforced in 2020, although the chemical industry long time ago agreed with the USEPA to phase out all C8-polyfluoroalkyl substances, among which PFOA belongs, in 2015. The present usage in EU of these substances is considered very small, thus the ban could without significant problems have been enforced sooner.
8:2 Fluorotelomer acrylate
The banned substances were used as surfactants and repellents of water, fat and dirt in impregnation of all-weather clothes and footwear, upholstery, and in food and feed packaging. Other uses were, for instances, in fire-fighting foams and for production of fluoropolymers. The substances are mainly produced and applied in Asia, and arrives now Europe for example in imported textile articles.
PFOA was a. o. used as an alternative to PFOS, which was banned in 2008. Alternatives to PFOA are already in place. Those are mainly analogue substances with a shorter fluoroalkyl chain. Unfortunately, that is substances, which already are suspected of having similar impacts.
PFOA and its salts are very persistent and water-soluble molecules that may be transported widely by sea currents. Some of the PFOA-precursors are covalent and volatile and can be transported over very long distances by air streams and even up to the Arctic, where it circulates in the susceptible ecosystem. PFOA can bioaccumulate in wildlife and be up-concentrated through food chain. Humans are mainly exposed to the PFOA family of substances from food, drinking water, migration from food packing and clothes. PFOA is measured in the blood of all people and in mothers’ milk. Among others PFOA is an endocrine disruptor, can reduce fertility and may cause cancer.
PFOA has also been discussed at meetings in the Stockholm Convention, and PFOA is expected to be classified as a POP chemical and black-listed next year.
On this site PFOA has been discussed before. In NEWS from March 9, 2014 a Norwegian ban of PFOA in textiles was announced.
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