Germany and Sweden together propose a restriction under REACH to cover six perfluorinated and polyfluorinated substances, known as PFAS. As the restriction also covers any substance that can degrade into one of the six, the Swedish Chemicals Agency estimates that the restriction in practice will cover a group of about 200 PFAS.
“With the overwhelming number of new chemicals being produced every year, it is obvious that strict chemical-by-chemical regulation cannot keep up with development. We are pleased to see this proposal, which is one attempt to use current regulation to act on a group of very problematic chemicals,” commented Dr Anna Lennquist, ChemSec toxicologist.
PFAS is a group of highly persistent chemicals that are found worldwide in the environment, many of them also having additional toxic properties. In recent years, there have been several initiatives from scientists and authorities calling for action on this problematic group, both in the EU and the US.
PFAS are used to create water- and dirt-repellent surfaces in various products, including clothing, kitchenware and cosmetics. They are also used in fire-fighting foams, which has caused pollution of ground water in many places.
A few of the better-known substances in this group, including PFOA, are increasingly being phased out. However, structurally similar alternatives are often used as substitutes and have in many cases proven to have similar problematic properties. The current restriction proposal is intended to hinder this type of regrettable substitution.
“Several progressive companies have managed to phase out this entire group of chemicals from a majority of their products. A restriction of this type is important to further drive innovation of alternatives to PFAS,” Dr Lennquist concludes.
The restriction proposal will undergo a two-stage public consultation, the final deadline being 20 June.