Almost daily, new reports demonstrating how PFAS levels are increasing in drinking water, food and human blood are published. Studies showing the different harmful effects of PFAS on human health and the environment are published at a similar rate. The fact that even rainwater now contains higher PFAS levels than what can be considered safe to drink has made scientists conclude that we have exceeded the planetary boundaries for PFAS chemicals. The urgency to phase out PFAS is obvious.
One practical challenge when starting to tackle PFAS is that the number of very similar substances is enormous. Figures between 5,000 and several millions of individual PFAS chemicals are mentioned. While ChemSec wants to send a clear message that every single PFAS should be phased out, the new PFAS update to the SIN List aims to narrow them down to the most relevant substances to start substitution work with.
We have therefore selected the PFAS substances that are registered for production or import to the EU and/or the US. By doing so, we have boiled the PFAS universe down to a few hundred substances and placed them on the SIN List. We used slightly different approaches for the EU and the US data respectively, as these two data sources have a different setup.
For the EU information, we used the ECHA registration database and its built-in search function. We searched using so-called SMILES (simplified molecular-input line-entry system) and searched for all registered substances having a -CF2- or -CF3 SMILES code. After this, we manually went through these and sorted out the ones that did not fulfill the OECD PFAS definition.
We chose substances with full registrations or so-called NONS (registered before REACH) registrations and removed substances registered as chemical intermediates (substances never leaving the manufacturing facility). However, in two cases we also kept the intermediates; either when there was an overlap between EU intermediates and substances registered in the US or when the substance had a relevant use identified in the publication “An overview of the uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)” from 2020.
For US information, we used the US EPA Chemical Data Reporting (CDR). We searched for any chemical name that included the word “fluoro”. We then removed all entries which did not have CAS# and/or a proper name or structure. After this, we made a manual verification of the remaining structures to make sure the substance would qualify according to the OECD PFAS definition.