On October 5, 2021, the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology published an article by Juliane Glüge and other members of the Global PFAS Science Panel demonstrating how the essential-use concept can be applied to the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a variety of consumer products and industrial processes. In 2019, a similar group of scientists published an article in which they proposed the concept of “essential use” to accelerate the phase-out of PFAS (FPF reported), and in 2020 they published examples illustrating the application of the essential-use concept on PFAS (FPF reported).
In their new article, Glüge explains that the scientists “review how much information is available on the functions of PFAS in these uses, the alternatives available, their performance and hazardous properties and, finally, whether this information is sufficient as a basis for deciding on the essentiality of a PFAS use.” To this aim, they performed three product-based (e.g., cleaning products and carpets) and four process-based (e.g., processing aids for fluoropolymer production) case studies. They found that while “PFAS in consumer products often are relatively easy to replace,” the PFAS used in industrial processes are harder to assess (e.g., concerning their function). The authors suggest that “more coordination among PFAS manufacturers, manufacturers of alternatives to PFAS, users of these materials, government authorities, and other stakeholders is needed to make the process of phasing out PFAS more transparent and coherent.”
The study by members of the Global PFAS Science Panel further found that investigating the viability of PFAS alternatives was limited by a lack of publicly accessible information. To help address this, the Green Science Policy Institute (GSPI) recently published the PFAS Data Hub, a repository of links to over 75 databases that include information on PFAS. The Hub is organized into 14 categories including PFAS alternatives, biomonitoring, and chemical information. The Food Packaging Forum’s list of chemicals used in food packaging, the Food Contact Chemicals database (FCCdb), and repository of pledged packaging actions, the Brand and Retailer Initiatives database, are also included. In a press release, GSPI explains that the database will be continuously expanded. With the public’s support, they aim to fill current gaps in the Data Hub to allow users to better answer questions such as: “What products and processes are [PFAS] used in most? Where are the contamination hot spots? What safer alternatives are already available?” The organization is especially interested in sharing more resources from outside the United States, and all stakeholders are invited to submit additional information to help fill these current gaps.
Glüge et al. (October 5, 2021). “Information Requirements under the Essential-Use Concept: PFAS Case Studies.” Environmental Science & Technology. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c03732
GSPI (September 28, 2021). “PFAS Data Hub.” PFAS Central
Carol Kwiatkowski (September 28, 2021). “The PFAS Data Hub: Thousands of PFAS, Hundreds of Contaminated Sites, One Home for Data.” Green Science Policy Institute