Emission inventory of PFASs and other fluorinated organic substances for the fluoropolymer production industry in Europe
By Joost Dalmijn, Juliane Glüge, Martin Scheringer, and Ian T. Cousins
Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts
January 29, 2024
Fluoropolymers are a group of fluorinated polymers within the broad class of substances known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). During their production, a wide array of additional fluorinated organic substances (many PFASs and some not defined as PFASs) are used, formed and emitted to air and water. This study aims to assess, and make an inventory of, all emissions of PFASs and other fluorinated organic substances by the fluoropolymer production industry in Europe using available emission databases and permits. Air emissions of the fluorinated gases (i.e., chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons (CFCs, H(C)FCs and PFCs)) by this industry have reportedly decreased between 2007 and 2021 from roughly 500 to 150 tonnes per year. Emissions of fluorosurfactants to air and water have also been reduced significantly. However, large uncertainties remain regarding the emissions of substances that are neither fluorinated gases nor fluorosurfactants but are classified as PFASs, such as polymerization by-products, chain transfer agents and fluorinated solvents. The available data indicate that the release of these substances is not decreasing but remains relatively stable. As this inventory probably underestimates emissions, further research, improved data availability and more harmonized reporting of emissions are necessary to obtain more accurate emission data for these substances. Nevertheless, based on the available data, it is clear that the emissions from fluoropolymer production plants to air and water are still significant and that the production of fluoropolymers continues to introduce persistent substances to the environment.