Today’s article in Environmental Science & Technology Letters makes several misleading claims about PFAS that need to be addressed.
PFAS are a large and diverse universe of chemistries that makes possible the products that power our lives -- the cellphones, tablets and telecommunications we use every day to connect with our friends and family; the aircrafts that power the U.S. military; alternative energy sources; and medical devices that help keep us healthy. In fact, right now, PFAS are being used to support COVID-19 testing equipment and to provide lifesaving protection in medical garments – both uses that are helping save lives around the world in the midst of this pandemic. PFAS are vital to enabling our lives in the 21st century.
However, all PFAS are not the same. Different types of PFAS have different properties and uses, as well as different environmental and health profiles. A one-size-fits-all approach to regulating PFAS is neither scientifically accurate nor appropriate and threatens to take away important products that families and businesses rely on. Furthermore this approach is unnecessary as claims of “thousands” of PFAS chemistries are false. For example, the EPA has identified about 600 PFAS that are active in commerce.
The article also makes a misleading claim about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), which actually rejected a single class approach to assessing the potential hazards of another class of chemistry.
Furthermore, evaluations of “essentiality” are not and should not be limited to just one factor. It is critical to take a comprehensive approach that considers multiple factors, including chemical safety, product safety, performance, cost, product life cycle, etc. This extends well beyond the chemical that may be substituted and requires a holistic approach to product design.
Consumers should have confidence in the fact that today’s products made with or containing PFAS do not present a significant risk to human health or the environment. Regulators around the world, including the US EPA, have confirmed the safety of the PFAS used in products today based on a robust body of scientific data. Likewise, similar conclusions have been reached by multiple regulatory bodies globally. We support regulation of PFAS when based on sound science and we are committed to being a partner and resource for regulatory bodies and other stakeholders. Our goal is to ensure that PFAS are regulated appropriately – which means they should be regulated by their specific properties and potential risks rather than by a sweeping, broad brush approach with the potential to severely impact the functionality and safety of numerous products we rely on every day.