SPE Conference to Address PFAS Chemicals Landscape
Baltimore event in October to assess regulation, economic impact and alternatives
So-called “forever chemicals”—per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—are garnering headlines these days, mostly related to pending bans and lawsuits about environmental and health concerns.
In recent legal settlements, companies including 3M, Chemours Co., DuPont Co., Corteva Inc. and Solvay Specialty Polymers USA LLC have agreed to collectively pay more than $11.8 billion to assist with PFAS mitigation efforts, mostly having to do with helping to remove the chemicals from drinking water. 3M is to bear the lion’s share of those penalties, agreeing to pay up to $10.3 billion over 13 years.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 29 also announced its framework for addressing the chemicals. The framework states that “EPA’s planned approach when reviewing new PFAS and new uses of PFAS” will be to ensure that “before these chemicals are allowed to enter into commerce,” there will be “an extensive evaluation to ensure they pose no harm to human health and the environment.”
SPE Launching Baltimore Conference
SPE will tackle this topic Oct. 18-19 at a conference in Baltimore, Md. called “PFAS in the Plastics Industry.” These are a highly diverse group of chemical compounds that can be found intentionally or unintentionally in products or waste streams from various industries, according to Dr. Iván D. López, SPE’s director of technical programs.
“These substances have been widely used due to their attractive physical and chemical properties, which enhance the durability and performance of many products. Notable properties,” he says, “include water and oil resistance, flame resistance and high-temperature resistance.”
In the plastics industry, fluoropolymers are used for various applications, including electronics, compounds, membranes, non-stick coatings and corrosion inhibitors, among others. Additionally, substances such as mold release agents, foaming agents and process aids may contain PFAS in their formulation.
But due to growing concerns about the negative effects of these substances, calls for bans on PFAS use are getting louder. The European Chemical Agency proposed earlier this year to restrict the manufacture and use of PFAS as a chemical class in Europe.
Replacing PFAS Is a Challenge for Industry
“This scenario presents significant technical and financial challenges for the plastics industry that uses these substances,” notes López. SPE will host the conference this fall to explore the regulatory landscape surrounding these substances, their potential technical and economic consequences, and the development of substitution alternatives.