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Refrigerants under threat from new PFAS proposals

Proposals to restrict the use of PFAS – a range of chemicals dangerous to health – could further impact the use of HFC and HFO refrigerants in Europe.

ndustry groups have been alerted to a joint REACH restriction proposal by the national authorities of five European member states to limit the risks to the environment and human health from the manufacture and use of a wide range of PFAS.

The European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation governs which chemicals can be manufactured and used within the EU.

PFAS – perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalky – are a group of more than 4,700 chemicals. They are typically used in stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints, non-stick coatings and fire-fighting foams. They are known to be highly persistent in the environment, contaminating groundwater, surface water and soil, and causing serious health effects such as cancer and liver damage.

Chemours and the European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee (EFCTC) have alerted the industry to the inclusion in the proposal of any substance that has a CF2 group or a CF3 group. This inclusion by the proposing countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – widens the scope to include as many as 8,000 substances including commonly used HFCs and HFOs.

In a letter to industry stakeholders, Chemours and the EFCTC say: “We take the view that this definition far exceeds the traditional definition of PFAS.”

Paul Ashord of Anthesis-Caleb, who is acting as a consultant to A-Gas, told the Cooling Post: “The concern is that non-hazardous PFAS will be phased out when they have a role in acting as replacements for high GWP refrigerants and thereby jeopardise the ability of the European Union to achieve its F-Gas Regulation objectives by ruling out a number of refrigerant blends that the industry is relying upon.”

Further information and a link to the call for evidence has been posted on the European Chemicals Agency website. Interested parties are being encouraged by Chemours and the EFCTC to participate before the end of July.

“Through the F-Gas Regulation there is considerable information available to the authorities, but it is essential to communicate the important role of HFCs and HFOs due to their safety and technical properties,” Chemours and the EFCTC add.

Once the evidence has been gathered, the five national authorities say they will prepare the restriction proposal over the next two years. Once the proposal is submitted, it will move to ECHA’s scientific committees for opinion making. Any decision on REACH restrictions are made in the European Commission by the EU Member States and scrutinised by the European Parliament and Council.