FluoroTechnology, often referred to as fluorinated chemicals or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), is a diverse group of chemistries characterized by the strong bond between fluorine and carbon. Because of this strong bond, FluoroTechnology provides resilience and durability. These properties are critical to the performance of many important products that industry and consumers rely on every day.
The major companies in the FluoroTechnology industry have made significant progress in implementing best practices and developing new chemistries that are effective and have solid health and safety profiles. Yet, sweeping false assertions about FluoroTechnology continue to be made. The following fact checker addresses this misinformation.
Common Misconceptions about FluoroTechnology
MISCONCEPTION: All fluorinated chemicals are the same.
FACT: Fluorinated chemistries are a diverse group of chemistries. This is true of their physical and chemical properties and of their safety and environmental impacts. As an example, some FluoroTechnology is used to modify the surface properties of textiles, carpets, and nonwovens, making them resistant to water, stains and oil. Another type of FluoroTechnology is specialty plastics, which are important to applications such as wire and cable coatings and the manufacturing of semiconductors.
MISCONCEPTION: Although some of the older, long-chain FluoroTechnology is being regulated or phased out, the most common replacements have similar health and safety issues.
FACT: The FluoroTechnology that is currently produced in the United States, Europe and Japan is well studied, and data from these studies have been provided to regulators globally as part of their chemical review processes. The science shows that the current chemistries offer significantly reduced bio-persistence and an improved environmental profile over the chemistries they replaced.
Learn more about the science that speaks to the safety of the newer chemistries.
MISCONCEPTION: Industry practices (emissions, impurity content in products) have not changed even though manufacturers switched to newer fluorinated chemistries.
FACT: As part of the PFOA Stewardship Program with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a related program with Environment Canada, major manufacturers implemented new practices and technologies to minimize emissions and product content of the older chemistries, virtually eliminating releases and product content of the chemistries of concern. The companies are incorporating many of the same practices in the manufacturing of their current FluoroTechnology.
FluoroCouncil also encourages the adoption of Best Available Technologies and Best Environmental Practices by its members and by industries that use FluoroTechnology. For example, the FluoroCouncil worked with the textile industry to develop guidelines that help mills and finishers understand how to minimize waste and environmental releases, while also keeping desirable fluorinated chemicals on their textile products where they belong. The Fire Fighting Foam Coalition also produced the Best Practice Guide for Use of Class B Fire Fighting Foams. These practices help minimize waste, exposure and environmental releases.
MISCONCEPTION: Non-fluorinated alternatives exist for all uses of fluorinated substances.
FACT: While non-fluorinated products are available for some current uses of fluorinated chemistries, they generally do not meet all the performance needs that many products require. Here are some of the unique roles fluorinated chemistries play in everyday applications:
- Fluoropolymer wire and cable insulation provide high dialectric and fire safety for the data communication industry.
- Fluorotelomer fabric treatments provide stain and oil resistance, and durability for the textile and medical-textile industry.
- Fluorochemical oil additives provide life extension and ultra-high lubricity for aircraft engines.
- Fluoropolymer high-purity tubing and valves provide ultra-clean systems for the production of advanced computer and semiconductor chips.
FluoroTechnology offers exceptional performance with clear societal benefits, allowing industries to create products that meet the challenges of leading-edge technology and modern life.
MISCONCEPTION: It doesn’t matter that the newer FluoroTechnology is less bioaccumulative, because they are still persistent.
FACT: The newer, short-chain chemistries currently in use are well studied. A large body of data on the products themselves, the raw materials used to produce them, and the associated degradation products has been developed and provided to regulators globally as part of their chemical review processes. The science supports the conclusion that the newer FluoroTechnology is not expected to present a significant risk to humans and the environment.
The FluoroCouncil encourages the adoption of Best Available Technologies and Best Environmental Practices by its own members and by industries that use fluorinated chemistries. For example, in coordination with the textile industry, guidelines were developed to help mills and finishers understand how to minimize waste and environmental releases.
Learn more about what the science says about fluorinated chemicals and the environment.
MISCONCEPTION: Exposure to FluoroTechnology has been linked to increased risks of kidney cancer, thyroid problems, high cholesterol and hormone disruption, among other issues.
FACT: Exposure to PFOA and PFOS has raised concerns about health effects. But attributing these health effects to other FluoroTechnology without studying them individually is incorrect and leads to bad policy that may eliminate valuable chemistries and technologies and societal benefits with no improvement to environmental or health outcomes.
MISCONCEPTION: Because some of the newer FluoroTechnology is less effective, larger quantities are needed to provide the same performance. Increasing use of fluorinated alternatives will lead to increasing levels of stable perfluorinated degradation products in the environment and will increase the risks of adverse effects on human health and the environment.
FACT: Compared to older chemistries, newer chemistries provide products with equivalent performance and generally do not require the use of larger quantities. Today’s fluorinated chemistry application rates are typically similar or reduced compared to older, long-chain chemistries; therefore use of today’s products do not lead to increasing levels in the environment.
Learn more about the effectiveness of fluorinated chemistries.
MISCONCEPTION: While a new generation of FluoroTechnology is being marketed, little information is publicly available on its chemical structures, properties, uses and toxicological profiles.
FACT: A robust body of research has been conducted on the current generation of fluorinated chemistries, not only by industry, but also by universities, government agencies and independent laboratories. Much of this research has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Details from these studies have been submitted for review by regulatory authorities around the world. Information on these chemistries is publicly available. A summary of this information has been created and is entitled “Assessment of POP Criteria for Specific Short-Chain Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances.”
MISCONCEPTION: PFOA, one of the older fluorinated chemistries, is found in a number of community water supplies throughout the United States. This should give everyone pause about the use of fluorinated chemicals.
FACT: FluoroTechnology manufacturers recognize this serious issue have developed substantial new practices to address these concerns. Consistent with methods developed under the U.S. EPA Stewardship program to reduce releases, members of the FluoroCouncil minimize the release to the environment of all chemistries that the companies produce and use. The FluoroCouncil also works with companies that use FluoroTechnology in downstream processes to encourage best practices and minimize releases.
MISCONCEPTION: PFOA is used to treat textiles.
FACT: PFOA has never been used as a treatment for textiles.