Dossiers - Chemicals regulation
PFAS - regulating important chemicals on a scientific basis
Perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are chemical substances that have become indispensable in a wide range of products due to their strength, durability, stability and resistance. Together with other industry and business associations, scienceindustries is campaigning for the safe handling of PFAS chemicals for humans and the environment and for the proportionate setting of limit values.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often referred to as PFAS or fluorotechnology, are a diverse group of chemicals characterised by the strong bond between fluorine and carbon. Because of this strong bond, PFASs give products strength, durability, stability and resistance.
An indispensable part of modern life
PFASs have high thermal and chemical stability - which is why they are used in very broad areas of the economy. These substances reduce friction in mechanically stressed parts, for example, and help them to function longer. These properties are crucial for the reliable and safe functioning of a wide range of products that are important for trade, industry and consumers.
Many medicines for humans and animals contain PFAS as active ingredients. But they are also a component of many seals and are needed for the production of computer chips or solar cells. PFASs make building shells watertight and are practically indispensable in diagnostics and scientific research and development. Countless everyday products are also currently manufactured with the help of PFASs - be it clothes, kitchen appliances or packaging.
Central element of the energy transition
PFAS are not only a diverse universe of chemical substances that are indispensable for modern life - without PFAS, for example, the energy transition would also be unthinkable. They are an integral part of photovoltaic systems, battery storage systems and water turbines, the functionality of which could not otherwise be guaranteed. PFASs also enable the transport of heat into living and working spaces in a large proportion of the heat pumps installed in Swiss homes today.
At the same time, PFAS are increasingly gaining the attention of broad sections of the population under the term "forever chemicals". Many PFASs are indeed difficult to degrade due to their unique stability. However, studies by agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation have shown that PFAS chemicals can be destroyed by proper waste disposal. Thus, potential end-of-life problems can be addressed.
Regulatory balancing of interests necessary
PFASs help to reduce resource consumption and waste generation: Thanks to their special properties, they extend the life of products for end consumers. But commercial and industrial customers also benefit from the fact that production equipment can be used for longer. In their efforts to protect human health and the environment, manufacturers of PFAS chemicals have developed numerous practices and technologies that minimise environmental emissions.
This is because some PFASs are water-soluble and therefore mobile, and some are toxic, which is why regulators around the world are challenged to protect people and the environment. It is a matter of weighing up the pros and cons of using specific chemicals. In addition, knowledge about the properties of the specific chemicals must be available, possible alternatives evaluated if necessary, and their use in industry, commerce and private consumers must be known. PFAS manufacturing companies want to be part of the solution, whether in terms of responsible production or use of the chemicals.
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