Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a substance used primarily as a fluoropolymer processing aid and surfactant. Its salts are also widely used as coating agents and materials for semiconductor manufacturing. It is an indispensable chemical for the Teflon coating of frying pans and the water-repellent coating of various products, and many of them exist around us.
PFOA, an indispensable chemical for our daily life, is, however, suspected of persistent degradation and long-term toxicity as a type of organic fluorine compounds. Therefore, at the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) held in 2019, it was decided that PFOA, its salts and related substances would be added to Annex A (Elimination) of the Convention (dicofol was added at the same time).
In response to the decision of the POPs Convention, regulations on PFOA are being strengthened in many countries around the world. For example, in the U.S., some states are considering standards for PFOA in drinking water, and in California, a proposal to add PFOA to the carcinogens of Proposition 65 list is currently under discussion. Meanwhile, in the EU, the “Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/115 of 27 November 2020 amending Annex I to Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds” was promulgated in the Official Journal of the European Union of 2 February 2021.
Similarly, Asian countries are also moving to strengthen their regulations. The following is a summary of the current situations:
- Chemical Substances Control Act (CSCA)
In April 2021, PFOA was added to the list of Class I Specified Chemical Substances under the CSCA. However, PFOA-related substances are excluded from the scope of regulation.
- List of Priority Control Chemicals (2nd Edition)
In November 2020, 18 substances, including PFOA, were placed on the list of Priority Control Chemicals. As a result, environmental risk control measures based on various laws and regulations will be taken in the future.
- Draft of the New Pollutant Management Action Plan
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment on October 11, 2021, released a draft of the New Pollutant Management Action Plan. The plan has been developed to manage new pollutants including PFOA more effectively. “New pollutants” refer to pollutants that pose risks to the environment or human health, but are not managed yet or cannot be managed through existing measures so that the risks are contained. Here is an overview of the draft action plan.
On May 24, the General Office of the State Council of China officially announced an Action Plan on Controlling New Pollutants.
- Regulated Toxic Chemical Substances and the Management of Their Handling
It was amended in September 2020 to change the handling volume by grade and toxicity classification of PFOA.
- Environmental Protection and Management Act
It was partially amended in 2019 to add PFOA as a regulated substance. A license is required for its import.
- Regulation of the Minister of Commerce No. 18 of 2019
Restrictions on the content of PFOA are regulated for some products (textiles, bedcovers, blankets).
- Hazardous Substances Act
A proposal to revise the list of hazardous substances that define the scope of regulation under the Act was announced in May 2021, and eight substances, including PFOA, were proposed as Class 4 hazardous substances (prohibited substances). Exemptions are planned to be established for specific applications. On 9 February 2022, the Department of Industrial Works, of Thailand opened the 2nd draft on PFOA regulations.
- Law on Environmental Protection
For the first time, the Law on Environmental Protection of 2020 specifically mentions the Stockholm Convention. One of its subordinate laws, the draft decree, lists PFOA as a substance to be regulated. On January 10th, 2022, the Decree No. 08/2022/ND-CP was published whose section 3 of chapter 4 stipulates POPs regulations, and Annex XVII of the decree lists regulated POPs, including PFOA.
Under the Law on Environmental Protection, a draft technical regulation, which would set allowable limits of POPs including PFOA, were released on November, 2021.
- Law on Chemicals
In the proposed amendment to Decree 113/2017/ND-CP (released in July 2021), the implementing bylaw of the Law on Chemicals, it is proposed to regulate PFOA as a restricted chemical substance.