There are currently a group of chemicals that have been placed in the spotlight and are receiving significant attention. Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are being discussed in the media and are constantly referenced as substances that will lead to the next industrial disaster. Some of the information depicted about these can at times be hyperbolic. The Fluid Sealing Association (FSA) is therefore actively trying to give concrete, fact-based, knowledge about this subject to counter some of the more hysterical reactions to these issues. One of the major focuses of the FSA is on the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
PFAS and Fluoropolymers
What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. There are over 4,700 known different chemicals that fit under the umbrella of PFAS. Fluoropolymer coatings are found in a variety of products, including clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, and heat-resistant nonstick cooking surfaces. Many sealing products including valve packing, pump packing, gasketing, and O-rings in mechanical seals also contain Fluoropolymer.
PFAS Chemicals are Not all the Same
All PFAS chemicals are not equal and should not be regulated as if they are. Each should be treated differently according to its application and toxicity. Umbrella legislation or regulation against all PFAS could end the use of non-harmful PTFE, a protector of people, the environment, and industrial equipment. According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “PFASs are a chemical class with diverse molecular structures and physical, chemical, and biological properties, and it is highly recommended that such diversity be properly recognized and communicated in a clear, specific and descriptive manner.”
The FSA’s mission is to be recognized as the primary source of technical information, to influence and support the development of related standards, and to provide education in the area of fluid sealing while promoting a safe, clean environment. We actively monitor the economic, environmental, and social changes, which may impact the fluid sealing industry and maintain a forum for the exchange of this information. FSA supports sensible regulation and legislation to protect the health and safety of our communities and environment.
Watch this Empowering Industry Podcast, as Charli Matthews of Empowering Pumps & Equipment interviews several members from the Fluid Sealing Association about PFAS, PTFE, and legislation surrounding the chemicals.
Along with Ron Frisard, Global Training Manager at A.W. Chesterton Company, Rob Coffee, VP of Sales & Marketing at Proco Products, Inc, and Phil Mahoney, Director of Engineering Services for A.W. Chesterton Company, Charlie digs into what they do for the industry and also touches on PFAS and the critical work that the FSA is leading when it comes to dissecting these and advocating for the chemicals under this umbrella that is in fact not hazardous materials – an example of this is PTFE that is critical for manufacturers in the sealing industry and shouldn’t be looped into the PFAS conversation and legislation.
PFAS Chemicals of Concern
PFAS chemicals of concern include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These should be regulated to ensure that they do not enter drinking water or the environment. The thousands of other chemicals, which do not have these detrimental characteristics, should not, therefore, be grouped into one sweeping regulation or legislative action which may exclude or restrict the use of the safe materials that benefit safety and the environment. Major PTFE manufacturers have removed the use of PFOA from PTFE production processes entirely, eliminating risk and the use of hazardous materials.
What the FSA Recommends for Legislation of PFAS
The Fluid Sealing Association recommends that lawmakers use a science-based approach to regulating harmful PFAS chemicals, such as PFOA and PFOS. They also urge regulating bodies to base regulations on standardized test methods and acceptance limits of materials deemed harmful by the EPA. The EPA and other regulating bodies should keep using the grouping concept to distinguish hazardous chemicals from non-hazardous in making determinations; the scope of any regulation should exclude all chemicals deemed non-harmful. The FSA is also proposing language in state and federal legislation that would ‘carve out’ PTFE for industry use similar to language for using PTFE in medical usage. This will ensure industry keeps running with current PTFE technology.