ECHA has launched a public consultation on the report running until June

Germany and Norway propose PFOA restriction

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

PFOA-based coatings are used to repel grease on fast food packages
PFOA-based coatings are used to repel grease on fast food packages

Related tags: Perfluorooctanoic acid, Dupont, Norway

Germany and Norway have proposed a restriction on Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts in concentrations equal to or greater than 2 parts per billion (PPB).

The countries produced a report with their proposal​ to restrict the manufacturing, use and placing on the market of the chemical and substances that may degrade to PFOA.

PFOA has been included as a substance of very high concern in the REACH regulation.

The report said that national regulatory action will not adequately manage the risks of PFOA and PFOA-related substances so measures need to be taken on a community-wide basis.

PFOA is described as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) substance, meaning it persists in the environment, where it may have irreversible adverse effects and for human health in the long term.

Public consultation

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has launched a public consultation until 17 June 2015.

PFOA and PFOA-related substances provide properties such as high friction resistance, resistance to heat and chemical agents, low surface energy, water, grease, oil and dirt repellency.

PFOA-related substances can be used as part of side-chain fluorinated polymers to provide water, grease and soil protection in paper and cardboard food packaging.

Side-chain fluorinated polymers are used in the surface treatment of paper and packaging, especially for food contact materials (plates, food containers, bags and wraps) but also for non-food applications (folding cartons, containers, carbonless forms and masking papers), according to the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) in 2009.

Usage estimates and possible replacements

According to data from industry as part of an earlier consultation, the content of side-chain fluorinated polymers is about 0.3-1%, depending on the specific purpose of the treated material.

Information from industry indicates that PFOA-related substances are still used in significant amounts in the surface treatment of paper.

An earlier consultation revealed that short-chain PFASs are used as a replacement for PFOA-related substances, said the report.

It estimated that 150-200 tons per annum (t/a) of PFOA-related substances are used for paper treatment within the EU based on industry information but warned this figure was ‘highly uncertain’​.

“Treatment of paper is a relevant use of PFOA-related substances. During the process the substances might be released to wastewater and air. In addition, use and recycling of the treated paper might be a source of PFOA and PFOA-related substances in the environment​,” said the report.

When considering that 2% of the PFOA-related substances are not bound in the polymer matrix and half of this amount is released during the treatment of paper, emissions account for 1.5 - 2 t/a.

DuPont and PFOA

PFOA was at the centre of a class action settlement in 2005 involving DuPont.

The firm said in late 2013 it no longer makes or uses PFOA in the manufacture of fluoropolymer-based products after it was given a 2015 deadline to phase it out.

The chemical was emitted into the air and water supply by DuPont’s West Virginia site from the 1950’s until a few years ago, said the C8 science panel of public health scientists.

The panel was created after the 2005 settlement by lawyers for the community and DuPont, to evaluate probable links between C8 exposure and any human disease.

It found ‘probable links’ to six health conditions in the Mid-Ohio valley​.

Under REACH, 21 fluorinated substances have been registered which most probably can be used as alternatives of PFOA-related substances. 

The opinion forming process of the ECHA Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) started with the public consultation. 

The final opinions are scheduled to be available by 17 December 2015. ECHA will send these to the European Commission, which will decide whether to include the proposed restriction in the Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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