The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) supported Norway’s proposal to restrict the use of perfluorohexane-1-sulphonic acid (PFHxS) to prevent it being used as a regrettable substitute for another ‘forever chemical’ PFOA, which will be banned from July onwards.
In its June meeting, SEAC adopted its final opinion supporting the proposal to restrict the manufacture or placing on the market of PFHxS, its salts or related substances in mixtures and articles. This follows an earlier opinion by the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) in March 2020.
SEAC concluded that the expected benefits and costs to society of the restriction proposal are proportionate and would, therefore, be the most appropriate EU-wide measure to address the identified risks to the environment.
The proposed restriction aims to avoid the regrettable substitution of PFOA, which is set to be banned from 4 July 2020 under the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Regulation as well as of PFOS, which has already been eliminated under the same regulation. Once adopted, it would reduce the environmental emissions from products and mixtures imported to the EU/EEA (e.g. from water repellent outdoor textiles), minimise exposure of future generations to PFHxS and prevent further irreversible contamination of drinking water.
Following SEAC’s adoption, the opinions of both RAC and SEAC will be sent to the European Commission, which will take the decision on the proposal together with the EU Member States.
In their June meetings, RAC and SEAC also discussed other restriction proposals, applications for authorisation, occupational exposure limits (OELs) and harmonised classification and labelling. The main conclusions were:
- Both committees supported ECHA’s proposed restriction of intentionally-added microplastics, with RAC adopting its opinion. The 60-day consultation on SEAC’s draft opinion is expected to be launched in early July 2020.
- Both committees supported ECHA’s proposal to restrict the placing on the market of calcium cyanamide used as a fertiliser. The 60-day consultation on SEAC’s draft opinion launches on 24 June 2020.
- SEAC agreed on its draft opinion on France and Sweden’s proposal to restrict skin sensitising substances in textiles, leather, hide and fur articles, placed on the market for the first time. The 60-day consultation on SEAC’s draft opinion launches on 24 June 2020.
- Both committees adopted their opinions on applications for authorisation on one use of sodium chromate, five uses of octylphenol ethoxylates and one use of nonylphenol ethoxylates.
- In response to a European Commission request, RAC adopted its opinions on the scientific evaluation of occupational exposure limits (OELs) for lead and its compounds, and for diisocyanates.
- RAC adopted 11 opinions on harmonised classification and labelling.
Full details about the committees’ conclusions are available in the annex.
What is PFHxS?
PFHxS is one of the most frequently detected perfluorinated substances (PFAS) in human blood samples worldwide. It is very persistent and very bioaccumulative, and found in the environment all over the world. It has even been detected in wildlife in remote areas like the Arctic.
It is used, for example, as water and stain repellent in textile treatment. However, its use has been declining over the years. Current annual emissions are estimated to be around 0.42 tonnes.
Norway has also proposed to list the substance in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, where it is currently under review.