ESG - Environmental Social Governance

PFAS regulation: its impact on the sealing industry

What does the proposed PFAS ban mean for the sealing industry? KLINGER Dichtungstechnik provides insight and perspective.

The implications of the proposed PFAS ban have shaken and stirred the sealing industry. Uncover the key points of debate surrounding this controversial regulation.

On February 7, 2023, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) has published a proposal to ban PFAS substances. The proposal was prepared by authorities in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, and submitted to ECHA. The document is raising concerns within the sealing industry. Stephan Piringer, Head of Product Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik, delves into the details of the proposed regulation, its potential impact on the sealing industry, and the ongoing public discussion surrounding its implementation.

 

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PFAS: a diverse group of chemicals

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in various industries for decades. There are more than 4,000 different PFAS, some of which are potentially harmful to both humans and the environment. Certain PFAS have been linked to a range of health issues, including cancer, thyroid disorders, and developmental problems. They are also highly persistent in the environment, and some bioaccumulate in animals and humans, raising concerns about their long-term effects on ecosystems and public health. Some PFAS, however, are completely harmless, such as PTFE. We come into contact with the material every day, e.g. in Teflon pans. For its excellent properties, the material is used even in the most delicate part of the human body, the heart. As a component of cardiac pacemakers, it saves the lives of thousands of patients every day.

 

Molecular structure of a PFAS compound
Molecular structure of a PFAS compound

The vast array of PFAS: over 4,000 substances

A controversial regulation: the ECHA proposal states to ban PFAS altogether. This proposal has far-reaching implications, as “it includes not only the potentially harmful PFAS but also the relatively harmless ones, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE),” says Stephan. The proposed ban would have significant consequences for various industries, including the sealing industry, which relies on PTFE as a crucial material for producing seals and gaskets.

PTFE and its importance in the sealing industry

Stephan Piringer, Head of Product Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik

„PTFE is a type of polymer that is highly valued in the sealing industry due to its unique properties, such as chemical resistance, adaptability to sealing surfaces, low permeability, and temperature stability. Its use in seals and gaskets ensures the safe and efficient operation of various industrial processes.“

Stephan Piringer, Head of Product Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik

 

It would force manufacturers to seek alternative materials, which will be less effective and potentially more expensive.

ESA's position on PFAS regulation

The European Sealing Association (ESA), which includes KLINGER Dichtungstechnik as a member, has issued a position statement highlighting the need for a more nuanced approach to PFAS regulation. They emphasize the importance of distinguishing between harmful and non-harmful PFAS, such as PTFE, to avoid unnecessary disruptions to the sealing industry.

Meanwhile ECHA has published a platform where interested parties can influence the decision-making process regarding PFAS regulation. This platform allows for public input and engagement, ensuring that all perspectives are considered before any final decisions are made.

The future of PFAS regulation

The timeline for the implementation of any PFAS regulation is uncertain, as it depends on the processes of European legislation. “The draft proposal outlines deadlines ranging from 18 months to 12 years after the regulation comes into effect. It will take months before the corresponding law could come in its final version. This uncertainty makes it difficult for industries to plan for potential changes and adapt accordingly,” states Stephan, adding:

Stephan Piringer, Head of Product Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik

„Instead of a blanket ban on all PFAS, a more targeted approach could be adopted, focusing on the regulation of harmful PFAS while allowing the use of safe compounds like PTFE.“

Stephan Piringer, Head of Product Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik

 

This approach would protect public health and the environment without unduly harming industries that rely on fluoropolymers.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

  • What are PFAS?
    PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of man-made chemicals used in various industries. There are over 4,000 different PFAS , some of which are potentially harmful to humans and the environment, others are completely harmless.

  • What is ECHA's proposal regarding PFAS regulation?
    ECHA has proposed a ban on all PFAS, including both harmful and non-harmful polymers like PTFE. This broad proposal has raised concerns among industries that rely on safe PFAS compounds.

  • Why is PTFE important to the sealing industry?
    PTFE is a valuable material in the sealing industry due to its unique properties, such as chemical resistance, adaptability to sealing surfaces, low permeability, and temperature stability. It is widely used in seals and gaskets for various industrial applications.

  • What is the timeline for the implementation of PFAS regulation?
    The timeline for PFAS regulation is uncertain, as it depends on European legislative processes. The draft proposal outlines deadlines ranging from 18 months to 12 years after the regulation comes into effect.

  • Are there alternative solutions to a blanket ban on all PFAS?
    Yes, a more targeted approach could be adopted, focusing on the regulation of harmful PFAS while allowing the use of safe polymers like PTFE. This approach would balance the need to protect public health and the environment without unduly harming industries that rely on these compounds.

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