PFAS is a big topic for conversation worldwide.
At SSP UK Ltd, we’re monitoring these conversations closely and looking at how the proposed regulations and legislation will affect the sealing industry now and in the future.
PFAS is a diverse group of chemicals that incorporate a number of harmful and hazardous substances, alongside non-hazardous and safe for use chemicals.
Today, PFAS is often the material of choice for manufacturing various everyday products. For example, PFAS agents can prevent food from sticking to cookware, provide stain resistance on carpets, are highly effective for use in firefighting foam, and much more.
Due to its flexibility in use, you will find PFAS in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics, and the military.
However, for all PFAS is a highly effective agent for many products and applications, there are numerous health concerns associated with its use and some toxic chemicals included in its makeup. For example, you can find traces of PFAS chemicals in drinking water and EU soils, which can negatively impact people’s health.
As such, reviews on the use of PFAS are now underway, examining the results of the harmful effect it can have on people’s health due to sustained use and over-exposure.
What does PFAS stand for?
PFAS stands for per-and polyfluoroalkyl and includes over 4,700 manufactured chemicals.
PFAS provides unique chemical and physical properties, including oil and water repellency, temperature, and chemical resistance.
Production and use of PFAS have resulted in contamination of everyday drinking water, paper packaging within the food and drinks industry, cosmetics, textiles, furniture, and more.
One of the most common classes of PFAS is fluoropolymers, which are used across many sectors and can be an essential component for numerous applications. This is because the properties of fluoropolymers make them fire, weather, temperature, and chemical resistant.
They also have non-sticking and non-wetting properties, making them extremely versatile in the sealing and gasket industry.
However, we are aware of ongoing conversations that propose implementing specific restrictions on PFAS, including banning its use in all non-essential applications and consumer use.
Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway are leading the way in implementing a blanket ban on chemicals, asking REACH (registration, evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals) to consider and impose a set of restrictions on its use and volume of use.
PFAS in sealing and gaskets
Sealing solutions are critical to many sectors and applications, and those seals that contain PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) provide numerous benefits.
Used in seal valves in pressurised applications, these PTFE seals ultimately prevent leaks from occurring and potentially harmful gases from escaping.
Ultimately, PTFE seals can prevent leaks at a rate of almost zero, making them an essential sealing component in preventing harmful gases from escaping and supporting climate change.
PTFE, in this sense, cannot simply be replaced in sealing applications as other agents currently available do not offer the same levels of safety and high performance.
In addition, reputable and responsible manufacturers of PTFE do proactively remove PFOA from processes to ensure its safe use in applications. This has been a priority and objective for many years across the sector.
However, we are aware that all PFAS are different. And, in this sense, we should treat each element differently; it cannot be as simple as imposing such a broad restriction as proposed, and exceptions are to be considered throughout the new proposals.
Especially as currently, there are no alternatives on the market that offer the same high-performance levels and levels of safety, which can pose more risks and problems to applications and products in the long run.
Breaking down these restrictions into hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals by name will be key in supporting the seal and gasket industry in the future.
PFAS in the UK
Currently, PFAS in the UK is a concern and priority, but no such reviews are currently underway regarding the wide-scale ban. However, staying abreast of decisions made by EU member states and the impact these will have on the UK will be key.
The impact of these reviews and ultimately the outcome could be huge for the gasket and sealing industry; hence feedback is actively being sought on this subject across all industry sectors, and those who are affected are encouraged to get involved and have their say.
Combining all PFAS into one legislation or regulation does not help support the wider industry and can do more harm than good. Instead, we widely believe that we can make more efficiencies and innovations by regulating them as individual chemicals.
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