Scientific committees support further restrictions of PFAS
The Committees for Risk Assessment and Socio-Economic Analysis support Germany’s proposal to restrict the use of undecafluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) and related substances. The potential restriction is expected to reduce further environmental and human exposure to these chemicals resulting mainly from uses in food contact materials, textiles and fire-fighting foams.
Helsinki, 9 December 2021 – The Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) has adopted its final opinion on Germany’s proposal to restrict undecafluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), its salts and related substances. This follows an earlier opinion by the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) in June 2021 to restrict these substances that are very persistent and mobile in the environment and can damage the human reproductive system.
RAC supported the proposed restriction for uses where it is not possible to minimise emissions through other means, especially for consumer uses in food contact materials and textiles as well as for fire-fighting foams used by municipal fire departments and at home.
SEAC considers that a restriction of PFHxA is, in general, an appropriate measure to address the identified risks and to ensure a consistent level of protection for people and the environment across the EU. However, while SEAC concluded that a restriction on certain uses was likely to be proportionate (e.g. textiles in consumer apparel, paper and cardboard in food contact materials and cosmetic products), uncertainties in the available information prevented SEAC from concluding that the proposed restriction as a whole was the most appropriate means to address the identified risk.
Peter Van der Zandt, ECHA’s Director for Risk Management says: “The whole PFAS group has been a growing concern for quite a while now. In the EU, we have already restricted certain groups of them and some are banned globally. Next year, we are expecting the restriction proposals for PFAS in fire-fighting foams as well as the broad proposal tackling the whole PFAS class, over 4 000 chemicals, being prepared by five countries. Assessing big groups of chemicals with many uses and with substantial stakeholder input is challenging for our committees, but they have shown an ability to adapt their ways of working. This is good for the future, as more and more restriction proposals will address groups of substances.”
During their meetings, SEAC also adopted its opinion on the French proposal to restrict substances in single-use baby diapers, and RAC adopted 11 opinions on harmonised classification and labelling. In addition, RAC and SEAC adopted an opinion on an application for authorisation on the use of chromium trioxide and sodium dichromate for passivation of electrolytic tinplate, and RAC agreed on six and SEAC on five draft opinions on applications for authorisation mostly on electroplating uses of chromium (VI) substances. More about these and other topics can be found in the annex.
PFHxAs are a subgroup of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFHxA substances are known to be very persistent and mobile. They are widely used in many sectors, like paper and cardboard (food contact materials), textiles such as personal protective equipment, home textiles and apparel, as well as in fire-fighting foams.
As many long-chain (C8 to C14) perfluorinated substances are or will soon be restricted (e.g. PFOA, PFCAs), manufacturers have started using short-chain substances like PFHxA (C6) instead.
The EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability places PFAS policy front and centre. The European Commission commits to phasing out all PFAS, allowing their use only where they are proven to be irreplaceable and essential to society.