Another Sleeping Giant - Fluoropolymers – Should They Be Regulated?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) consist of polymers and nonpolymers. The current regulatory considerations are related to nonpolymeric PFAS compounds. Fluoropolymers are not currently targeted to be regulated. The question is, should they be regulated? Are the fluoropolymers part of the 4000-6000 PFAS compounds being cited in literature? A recently published article in Environmental Science and Technology (Lohmann, R., et al., Are Fluoropolymers really of Low Concern for Human and Environmental Health and Separate from other PFAS?, Environ.Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 12820-12828) raises questions regarding the need to be concerned about the effects of fluoropolymers on the environment and human health. An example of a commonly known fluoropolymer is Teflon® (polytetrafluoroethylene [PTFE]). Another example is Teflon tape used in plumbing applications.
The next question would be the analytical methods required to analyze fluoropolymers and how many of those compounds exist. One would assume that methods developed for PFAS would be amenable to the analysis of fluoropolymers as they are a similar to the PFAS class of compounds. Fluoropolymers are utilized in various applications, such as automotive, aerospace, semiconductors, electronics, household appliances etc. A common example encountered in our daily lives is Teflon-coated cookware (https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-fluoropolymer.htm). Are analytical standards available for the various fluoropolymers?
Another obvious consideration would be their persistence in the environment. Are they biodegradable? Are they destructible by incineration? Do they behave exactly like PFAS? Are they also ubiquitous like PFAS?
Accurate answers to all of these questions requires the commitment of time and resources, as well as the devotion of bright, independent scientists performing quality research.