What are PFAS and How Do They Impact Regulations?

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have gained significant attention recently. These synthetic fluorocarbons, known for their durability, persistence, and toxicity, have earned the nickname "forever chemicals" due to their resistance to degradation in the environment. With over 12,000 different substances falling under the PFAS family, the potential health risks associated with these chemicals have raised universal concerns. In response, various countries and multinational bodies, including the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU), have implemented regulations to control the use and release of PFAS. But it doesn’t stop there – PFAS regulations continue to expand worldwide.

Manufacturers of consumer products containing PFAS must be aware of the potential impact on their market access, public perception, customer safety, and overall business operations. Additionally, the rise in class action lawsuits against PFAS further emphasizes the need for manufacturers to understand the risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. Businesses must stay informed about these regulations and their implications to ensure compliance and protect their operations and reputation. Continue reading to learn more about PFAS and how they impact regulations.

Products containing PFAS

PFAS are widely used in various applications that require resistance to water, oil, heat, and non-stick or stain-resistant properties. As a result, PFAS can be found in numerous products, including:  

  • Cleaning products 
  • Non-stick cookware 
  • Cosmetics 
  • Furniture 
  • Water-resistant fabrics 
  • Dental floss 
  • Food packaging 
  • Pesticides 
  • Fire-fighting foam  

The persistence and health effects of PFAS

Due to the strong chemical bonds in PFAS, these substances have difficulty breaking down over time, leading to their accumulation in the environment and the human body. PFAS can contaminate soil, drinking water, and wildlife. The most common ways that individuals are exposed to PFAS include drinking contaminated water, consuming food sourced near places that use or produce PFAS or food contained in packaging made with PFAS, and using consumer products with added PFAS.

Studies have shown potential adverse effects on human health from exposure to certain PFAS, including: 

  • Elevated blood cholesterol levels 
  • Greater risk of high blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of thyroid disease 
  • Decreased fertility in women 
  • Lower infant birth weight 

The persistence, toxicity, and potential health effects of PFAS have prompted several global regulations, including those in the U.S., EU, and Canada. 

United States PFAS regulations 

In the U.S., both federal and state-level regulations have been introduced, with reporting obligations and eventual restrictions on the entire PFAS family.  

Federally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken several steps to tackle the PFAS crisis. For example, the new PFAS reporting rule under Section 8(a)(7) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires manufacturers and importers to report on their use of PFAS dating back to 2011. Additionally, the EPA plans to designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) as "hazardous substances" under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Many U.S. states have also enacted or proposed legislation regulating PFAS. For example, California requires manufacturers to submit details about PFAS-containing products annually in a public database, while Maine and New Hampshire have banned the sale of certain PFAS-containing products.  

European Union PFAS regulations 

The EU has also implemented PFAS reporting requirements and restrictions under various regulations, including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation and the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Regulation. The Classification, Labeling, and Packaging (CLP) Regulation covers multiple PFAS, and the Drinking Water Directive sets a limit for all PFAS in drinking water. Several additional PFAS restrictions have been proposed, as well. 

Canadian PFAS regulations 

The manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, and import of PFOS, PFOA, and long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids (LC-PFCAs) are prohibited in Canada under the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations. However, Canada has proposed repealing and replacing its existing regulations to further restrict the use of specific PFAS substances within the country. 

Ensure PFAS regulatory compliance with Source Intelligence 

Complying with global PFAS regulations is a lot to wrap your head around, but that's where we come in. Our comprehensive PFAS software allows you to identify PFAS in your supply chain, generate customized PFAS declarations, and cross-check your products against global legislative requirements. Explore our PFAS program or connect with one of our supply chain compliance experts to streamline your PFAS reporting requirements. 

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