In a move with major implications for the European HVAC&R industry, five EU countries announced on July 15 their intention to submit a joint proposal to restrict per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), including some HFC and HFO refrigerants, to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) under the REACH regulation by July 2022.
The five countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – are seeking stakeholder feedback on their proposal.
Following submission next year, the restriction proposal would then be subject to “adoption of the final opinions” by ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC), before it would be adopted by the European Commission (EC).
PFAS, which represent a group of over 4,700 “forever chemicals,” are used to produce many consumer products, but exposure to PFAS can be harmful to human health. PFAS include perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which have already been limited and banned, respectively, in the EU.
As defined by the five countries, PFAS cover a number of f-gases, including certain HFCs and HFOs that are used in HVAC&R applications. In addition, trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), which is a PFAS, is an atmospheric degradation product of HFO-1234yf and HFC-134a.
The REACH regulation governs the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemical substances in the EU. HFCs are separately regulated by the EU F-Gas Regulation, though HFOs are not. In the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency also recently increased its oversight of PFAS, and is in the process of separately regulating HFCs. On July 15, the U.S. state of Maine became the first government in the world to ban the sale of products containing PFAS as of January 1, 2030, with exceptions for health and safety needs for which alternatives are not available.
Along with their announcement of intent, the five EU countries released a survey in which “the affected industrial associations and companies, but also companies that produce alternatives to PFAS,” can add or correct information published by the countries on PFAS, said the German Environment Agency (UBA) in a statement.
HC21, 29 July 2021