Another step towards a PFAS restriction
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is used as a collective term for a group of synthetic chemicals. Some PFASs, such as PFOS and PFOA, are already strictly regulated, in some cases globally. However, from an authorities‘ perspective, such case-by-case regulation does not provide an effective protection of the human health and the environment in view of the hazardous properties all PFAS have in common.
The proposed restriction scenario
The proposal evaluates two restriction options (RO) the regulating the production, the use and the placing on the market of about 10,000 PFAS:
- a complete ban without exemptions (“full ban”) (RO1)
- a complete ban with specific, time-limited exemptions for certain uses (RO2)
As it appears from the comments in the restriction proposal, the submitting national authorities are aware that it may be impossible to substitute – at least certain – PFAS. To “avoid undesirable social impacts” and to “enhance a smooth transition”, the RO2 scenario is preferred:
- Starting with the inclusion of PFAS in Annex XVII REACh, an inital 18-month transition period shall commence.
- Once said transition period expired, the
- the manufacture, import and use of PFASs as such, and
- the placing on the market and use of PFASs as a constituent of (another) substance, in mixtures or in articles, if certain concentration limits are exceeded,
shall be prohibited.
- Certain uses of particular PFASs will remain permitted for the duration of a “sunset period” following the transition period (either 5 or 12 years, depending on the exemption). These temporary exemptions concern, inter alia, the use of PFASs in personal protective equipment, refrigerants and food contact materials.
- Permanent exemptions from the above-mentioned prohibitions are only provided for active substances in biocidal products, plant protection products and in human and veterinary medicinal products.
The further procedure: take action
ECHA’s Scientific Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) are currently assessing whether the proposal meets the legal requirements. If this is the case, these committees will assess whether the proposal is suitable to mitigate the potential risk and evaluate whether the benefits of the proposal are adequate in view of the societal impacts. In doing so, the committees will take into account both the justifications in the proposal’s justifications and comments as well as the outcome of a public consultation. The six-month consultation period will start on March 22, 2023 and will provide stakeholders with the opportunity to submit risk-related and socio-economic justifications for further exemptions.
An extensive restriction would have a serious impact on many economic sectors. Companies, industries and associations should use the consultation period to influence the final restriction and prepare accordingly. ECHA is offering an information event on 5 April.back