PFAS is a large group of synthetic substances that are found in many products around us – and which then end up in nature where they do not break down. As PFAS can be dangerous for both the environment and health, voices are now being raised for the manufacture and sale of PFAS to be banned completely.


What is PFAS?

PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are a large family of synthetic materials used in a variety of fields. Common to all of them is that they have what is called a polar covalent bond between carbon and fluorine atoms. It is one of the strongest single bonds found in chemistry.

Because of this strong bond, PFAS have extremely high chemical resistance. The fact that the bond cannot be attacked by acids, alkalis, and solvents has made the substances very useful, but when over time they end up in other places than those originally intended, it becomes a problem: PFAS do not break down but remain in nature.


The history and use of PFAS

The large group of substances known as PFAS have been used since the 1950s and have countless uses, both in industry and in products that are found in all of our homes. The substances have often been added to act as grease or water repellent, sealing, or reinforcing. Some products that often contain PFAS are:

  • Textiles such as clothing, umbrellas and carpets
  • Sunscreen, skin cream, and make-up
  • Household products such as paint, cleaning agents, and non-stick frying pans
  • Food packaging of paper and cardboard
  • Fire extinguishing foam


How does PFAS affect the body?

There is evidence that a few PFAS substances are harmful to health. As an example, PFNA, PFOS, and PFOA have been classified as reproductive harm and suspected carcinogens. For the vast majority of PFAS substances, there are no studies showing risks, but the entire group should be considered harmful to health.

Animal experiments have shown that various PFAS substances can have harmful effects on the immune system and reproduction, but also on thyroid hormone, liver, and blood lipids. Individual substances can also cause tumors.

The clearest indications of how PFAS substances are dangerous for people come from areas where the water is locally contaminated by PFAS. The effects there have been:

  • A weakened immune system
  • An effect on the liver
  • Decreased cholesterol levels
  • Newborn children that weigh less


How does PFAS affect the environment?

Of course, the thousands of different substances that belong to the PFAS group have very different – ​​if any – effects on the environment. All types of PFAS are easily dispersed in air and water, and because they are extremely difficult to degrade, they remain for a very long time. Products containing PFAS can emit small amounts throughout their lifetime and use, and of course, continue to do so even after the product has become waste.


The PFAS restriction proposal

PFAS are not currently banned, but since it has been shown that some PFAS are dangerous or harmful, and since PFAS do not break down in nature, the production and use of the substances is regulated. There are international rules, EU rules, and rules at national level.

In February 2023, the Swedish Chemicals Agency, together with authorities from four other countries, put forward a PFAS restriction proposal that all manufacture and sale of PFAS should be banned in the EU. It is hoped that the EU PFAS babn will be adopted in 2025 and then gradually implemented in the following years.

In parallel with the work in the EU, the rules are also getting tougher in the US, where the states are progressing at slightly different rates with the PFAS restrictions. In China, there do not seem to be any restrictions on the whole PFAS group on the way, however, regulations of the subclasses PFOS and PFOA.


Do you want to learn more?

If you want to learn more about Carlsson & Möller’s environmental work or how we work to phase out PFAS, you are always welcome to contact us and we will be happy to tell you more.

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