Solving the Challenges of PFAS

March 30, 2021

In this science-policy workshop on PFAS, The Royal Society of Chemistry will begin to identify where the chemical sciences can provide solutions to challenges associated with the management and regulation of PFAS in consumer goods and industrial processes. The UK government will have a key role in developing future regulation plans on PFAS nationally and globally and we believe that the chemical sciences can make an important contribution.

The widespread industrial and consumer use of highly persistent per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) over decades has led to contamination of the land and water environment across the globe. We are still learning just how extensive the legacy issue is in many parts of the world. Although causal impacts of PFAS on human health are newly emerging, there is increasing scientific evidence pointing to associations of PFAS exposure and several human health conditions. Some scientists say the high persistence of these compounds is grounds enough to act without knowing the health impacts in detail and governments should take a precautionary position. As well as our increasing understanding of PFAS exposure and its effects, biomonitoring would also support risk assessment and impact assessment of any remediation actions taken on legacy PFAS contamination to be assessed. This is a topic where our principles for the management of chemicals in the environment can be useful in practice.
Amid rising concerns about the health and environmental impacts of this family of chemicals, many governments and regulatory bodies are working to consider the implementation of restrictions on groups of PFAS chemicals more widely than under current legislation. For example, Denmark has recently banned the use of PFAS in food contact paper and board, the Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand published the second version of the PFAS National Environmental Management Planin January 2020 and President Biden has pledged action on PFAS in the US. 

The Royal Society of Chemistry expects regulation of PFAS will be a topic of interest in the UK government’s work within a new UK Chemicals Framework over the coming months and years.

Using our four pillars approach, outlined in our work on a chemicals strategy for a sustainable chemicals revolution, in this workshop we will consider some important areas where the chemical sciences have a role to play:

  1. Education and evidence: the use of precautionary vs risk principles as a societal basis for policy-making 
    • Q - what educational materials using scientific evidence do we need to aid public understanding?
  2. Regulation: grouping of PFAS to facilitate efficient regulation
    • Q - is this an effective scientific way forward for regulation?
  3. Innovation: remediation technologies for addressing legacy PFAS contamination;
    • PFAS substitution in products – opportunities, challenges and unintended consequences
  4. Circular Economy: opportunities and challenges with PFAS in product recycling and waste 

While the concept of ‘essential use’ will be touched on as part of our discussions on PFAS, this regulatory topic is already being discussed in detail in other forums within the UK and in the European Union and will not be a specific focus for this workshop.

Please join us 10am-12noon (GMT) Tuesday 30 March 2021 using the dial in details and zoom link below. We look forward to hearing your views and knowledge on this important science-policy topic.

View webinar here:

Meeting ID: 666 0689 9647
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