PFAS ban is a threat to Industry.
May 24 2023
The blanket ban on PFAS poses a significant challenge for industry, rendering the use of essential high-performance materials nearly impossible. This restriction not only jeopardises technological sovereignty but also raises concerns about the EU's security of supply.
PFAS, known as the "chemicals of the century," have extensive industrial applications due to their unique properties. While they are present in numerous everyday products, their significance lies in their use within high-performance materials and industrial processes. However, their durability and resilience, which make them ideal for critical applications, could now lead to their demise.
In January 2023, Germany, along with the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, initiated a comprehensive restriction proposal for PFAS at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). This proposal aims to ban the production, use, and market availability of all PFAS in the EU. The justification for this blanket ban is the partially proven toxicity of PFAS and their persistence in the environment. However, some groups of PFAS substances, classified as "low concern" by scientists, might not pose significant risks. Additionally, PFAS is predominantly used in closed industrial systems.
Jörg Mayer, Managing Director of SPECTARIS, suggests that while Europe should pioneer the development of PFAS alternatives through innovation, an indiscriminate regulation of entire substance groups, regardless of their proven risk, would cause irreparable harm to Europe, its citizens, and its industry. This broad ban fails to consider the principle of proportionality observed in previous substance restrictions and prohibits the production of industrial products and applications designed to withstand extreme conditions.
The impact of the PFAS ban extends beyond everyday products like cosmetics and coatings, affecting life-saving high-tech applications as well. In the field of medical technology, fluoropolymers and fluoroelastomers from the PFAS group are crucial for minimally invasive surgeries and endoscopic procedures. Without these materials, numerous treatments would no longer be feasible, forcing patients to undergo more invasive surgeries. Unfortunately, there are no suitable substitute materials currently available.
Another example is photonics, where PFAS materials are essential in the manufacturing of lithography optics used in computer chip production. With a short-term ban on PFAS, Europe would be unable to produce lithography systems, exacerbating the existing global shortage of computer chips.
Moreover, a blanket ban on PFAS would render chemical analysis, particularly in chromatography analysis impossible and would thus hinder crucial tests in the food industry such as identifying contaminants and residues in various food products.
Asian Environmental Technology 27.2 - April/May 2023
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