Helping you identify and transition away from PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) are extremely stable chemicals that remain in the environment for many decades after release. They are sometimes termed ‘forever chemicals’ because of their extreme environmental persistence. 

Many PFAS are environmentally mobile, bioaccumulate in humans, plants, and animals and some even have harmful effects on human health. They are recognised as a significant environmental and public health challenge, yet many continue to be in everyday use in society, such as in food packaging, non-stick cookware, toiletries, clothing etc.

The chemical industry needs to transition towards safer, more sustainable chemistry and away from hazardous substances such as PFAS.

Their extreme persistency means that exposure to them could be irreversible and over time their concentrations will increase unless managed. PFAS are technically very difficult and expensive to remove from waste, soil and water. NCEC, the chemical experts at Ricardo, have extensive experience of dealing with the identification and management of hazardous substances. We will support you to understand the impact PFAS have on your business operations and within your portfolio and implement processes and policies to help you transition away from PFAS. Read here to find out how our services could help you.

Why should the chemical industry take immediate steps to transition away from using PFAS in their supply chain?

PFAS are a very large and structurally diverse group of synthetic organofluorine substances. Well known examples of PFAS are perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), both of which are now subject to global restrictions because of their harmful properties. Over 4,700 PFAS are listed in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) global PFAS database. More recent sources identify even greater numbers of PFAS. It is not known how many of these substances are in commercial use in significant volumes.

Recognising the challenges in managing the risks from such a large group of substances and the desire to avoid regrettable substitution, the European Commission’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability published in 2019, made a clear commitment to phase out all PFAS use in the EU. Under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation, an annex XV restriction report on PFAS in fire-fighting foams has been prepared. In addition, a ‘universal restriction’ proposal for all other uses of PFAS has been prepared by five EU Member States and has been published by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which will be followed by a six month consultation starting on 22 March 2023.

Under UK REACH, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive are developing a regulatory management and options appraisal (RMOA), also expected to be published in the spring 2023. Water quality legislation and guidance on safe limits in food are also changing in response to a greater understanding of the widespread occurrence and harmful effects of PFAS. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already set out a PFAS Strategic Roadmap taking a lifecycle approach to managing PFAS. Its key objectives are to restrict and remediate the use of PFAS to protect human health and the environment.

The growing awareness of the consequences of the widespread environmental contamination from the historic use of PFAS has led to increased regulatory and public scrutiny. There have already been several high-profile and costly lawsuits associated with PFAS contamination of drinking water sources and soil, and many more are anticipated. The growing awareness of the undesirable properties of PFAS has led to mounting pressure on chemical manufacturers and downstream users from consumers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and investors to move away from PFAS and transition to safer alternatives.   

Chemical organisations and downstream users need to future proof their portfolio. By acting now, businesses can identify PFAS in their supply chain, understand the implications of the developing policy landscape and plan to transition to safer non-PFAS alternatives. 

Our trusted NCEC experts provide the following PFAS services as part of your team:

Training and consultancy to support you to:

  • Identify PFAS use in your supply chain and product portfolio;
  • Understand the implications of the changing regulatory landscape and environmental policy;
  • Support you to transition away from PFAS in your portfolio;
  • Communicate your use of non-PFAS substances with customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders.

Additionally, as part of Ricardo, NCEC have experts that will support clients within the food, water, airport, agriculture and water industries. Together, we understand the environmental risk and public heath challenges that PFAS pose and can offer bespoke guidance across industries, to help you manage your risks from PFAS and move towards a more sustainable future.

Please contact us through the form on the right-hand side or at [email protected] for any PFAS related support.