On October 30, 2020, a team of researchers published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts that provides an overview of the global uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Several thousand different PFAS are known to have been used across a wide range of applications, and there has not been a comprehensive source that provides information on these many individual substances and their functions across all applications. The international group of scientists have helped to address this gap and identified “more than 200 use categories and subcategories . . . for more than 1,400 individual PFAS” showing that “PFAS are used in almost all industry branches and many consumer products.” While significant efforts in research and policy have so far focused on well-known uses such as textiles, firefighting foams, and food packaging, this study identifies a wide range of less-known PFAS applications, including “in ammunition, climbing ropes, guitar strings, artificial turf, and soil remediation.”

The study offers detailed descriptions of the use categories as well as a list of the identified PFAS in each category with the aim of supporting future analytical studies on the diverse group of PFAS. Based on the current understanding of their toxicities, the authors prioritize a set of categories where the use of PFAS should be reduced and eliminated. This includes the application of PFAS in the surface protection of paper products (such as in food packaging). The study further identifies that current confidentiality practices being applied by regulatory agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are significantly hindering the understanding of PFAS uses. To protect business confidentiality while still supporting safer use of these substances, the authors recommend that agencies such as the EPA release a ranking of PFAS applications without providing exact usage volumes.

The study was carried out by a team of scientists within the recently launched Global PFAS Science Panel (FPF reported), which has also published studies related to investigating the essential uses of PFAS and estimating the total human health and environmental impacts of the substances.

Reference

Glüge, J. et al. (October 16, 2020). “An overview of the uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).” Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts

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