ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee backs PFAS ban in firefighting foams
ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) supports the proposed restriction on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams. The draft opinion of the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) is open for consultation until 15 May.
Helsinki, 24 March 2023 – RAC has adopted its opinion on the proposal to restrict the placing on the market, use and formulation of all PFAS in firefighting foams, after sector-specific transition periods.
With 470 tonnes of PFAS released into the environment each year, the committee concluded that there is an EU-wide risk for people and the environment from their use in firefighting foams. The proposed restriction would effectively reduce emissions and the associated risks posed by these persistent substances. The committee’s concerns are based on the 'very persistent’ property combined with others, such as ‘mobility’.
“When a fire has occurred, or during training when firefighting foams are used, they are dispersed rapidly into the environment with no opportunity to collect them or to prevent the waste from entering the environment. This is seen as a European-wide problem and only certain sites have the possibility of applying risk management measures,” says Tim Bowmer, Chair of the RAC, in a new episode of the Safer Chemicals podcast.
The draft opinion of the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) also lends support to the proposed restriction. According to SEAC, the proposal is the most appropriate EU-wide measure for addressing identified risks, taking into account the availability of alternatives and the proportionality of its benefits and costs to society.
Nevertheless, SEAC suggests that a review of available and feasible alternatives is conducted before the end of the transition period for sites that produce, treat or store dangerous substances (covered by the Seveso Directive). This review is considered important to maintain safety where fires may have high impacts on the environment and human health. The 60-day consultation for the draft opinion is open until 15 May 2023.
“We are looking for more information during the consultation, for example, on the transition period needed for PFAS-containing portable fire extinguishers, and uses by the marine sector and municipal fire brigades,” says María Ottati, Chair of the SEAC. The committee is expected to adopt its opinion in June 2023.
Other outcomes of the March meetings:
- RAC and SEAC concluded that the universal restriction proposal on PFAS by Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden conforms to the requirements of REACH. A six-month consultation on the proposal opened on 22 March 2023;
- RAC adopted its opinion supporting the Netherlands' restriction proposal, which concerns occupational exposure to aprotic solvents DMAC and NEP. A 60-day consultation on SEAC’s draft opinion will run until 22 May 2023;
- RAC adopted its opinion on Italy’s proposal to restrict terphenyl, hydrogenated. A 60-day consultation on SEAC’s draft opinion will run until 15 May 2023;
- RAC adopted 11 opinions on harmonised classification and labelling;
- RAC adopted two opinions on the scientific evaluation of occupational exposure limits (OELs); and
- RAC and SEAC agreed on one draft opinion on a review report to renew an existing authorisation for diglyme and 14 draft opinions on applications for authorisation mainly of chromium trioxide. The opinions will be adopted at a later stage.
More about these topics can be found in the annex. Listen also to our podcast with the committee chairs Tim Bowmer and María Ottati.