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ATMO America: Scientist urges U.S. EPA to broaden definition of PFAS to include F-Gases, TFA.

Lydia Jahl du Green Science Policy Institute (en bas) participant à la session ATMO America. Elle a été rejointe par (en haut, de gauche à droite) Michael Garry d'ATMOsphere et David Behringer d'Öko-Recherche
Lydia Jahl of the Green Science Policy Institute (bottom) participating in ATMO America session. She was joined by (top, from left) Michael Garry of ATMOsphere and David Behringer of Öko-Recherche

The definition of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be broadened to include chemicals such as certain HFC and HFO refrigerants, as well as refrigerant byproduct trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), according to a scientist from the Green Science Policy Institute (GSPI).

The scientist, Lydia Jahl, Science and Policy Associate for GSPI, presented this view via Zoom at a session on the impact of refrigerants on health, safety and climate at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2022. ATMO America, held June 7-8 in Alexandria, Virginia, was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of

The PFAS category comprises thousands of “forever chemicals” that are toxic, bioaccumulate in humans, animals and plants, and are extremely durable in the environment due to the extremely strong carbon-fluorine chemical bond. They have been employed in hundreds of consumer products, including non-stick cookware, stain repellent, food packaging cosmetics and clothing. The ubiquity of PFAS has led to their being found in drinking water, among other places in the environment.

Two PFAS chemicals – PFOA, used in Teflon non-stick pans, and PFOS, an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard stain repellent – were phased out in the U.S. by the EPA after the discovery of their health hazards, which include cancer, reproductive problems and endocrine disruption.

Because of the difficulty of regulating thousands of individual PFAS chemicals, scientists have urged that PFAS be addressed as a class. However, two differing definitions of this class have emerged.

A definition published last year by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) describes PFAS as fluorinated substances that contain at least one fully fluorinated methyl or methylene carbon atom. This definition is accepted by “leading PFAS scientists around the world,” said Jahl. It is also used by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and several U.S. states.

In Europe, five counties are expected to ask theEuropean Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in January to regulate PFAS under the OECD definition, including some f-gases and TFA. The f-gas industry in Europe has pushed back against the classification of HFCs and HFOs as PFAS. “HFCs, HFOs and HCFOs are a distinct subset and due to their properties are not commonly regarded as PFAS,” says the European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee (EFCTC) on its website.


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