Are Fluoropolymers Really of Low Concern for Human and Environmental Health and Separate from Other PFAS?

By Rainer Lohmann, Ian T. Cousins, Jamie C. DeWitt, Juliane Gl├╝ge, Gretta Goldenman, Dorte Herzke, Andrew B. Lindstrom, Mark F. Miller, Carla A. Ng, Sharyle Patton, Martin Scheringer, Xenia Trier, and Zhanyun Wang
ES&T
October 12, 2020
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c03244

Fluoropolymers are a group of polymers within the class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The objective of this analysis is to evaluate the evidence regarding the environmental and human health impacts of fluoropolymers throughout their life cycle(s). Production of some fluoropolymers is intimately linked to the use and emissions of legacy and novel PFAS as polymer processing aids. There are serious concerns regarding the toxicity and adverse effects of fluorinated processing aids on humans and the environment. A variety of other PFAS, including monomers and oligomers, are emitted during the production, processing, use, and end-of-life treatment of fluoropolymers. There are further concerns regarding the safe disposal of fluoropolymers and their associated products and articles at the end of their life cycle. While recycling and reuse of fluoropolymers is performed on some industrial waste, there are only limited options for their recycling from consumer articles. The evidence reviewed in this analysis does not find a scientific rationale for concluding that fluoropolymers are of low concern for environmental and human health. Given fluoropolymers’ extreme persistence; emissions associated with their production, use, and disposal; and a high likelihood for human exposure to PFAS, their production and uses should be curtailed except in cases of essential uses.

 

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