BLOG TOPIC: Understanding and addressing concerns about PFAS in the United States – and Flint Group’s reactions to this topic
What are PFAS?
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) make up a large, complex group of manufactured chemicals, including Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which are used as components in many everyday products.
For example, they keep food from sticking to cookware, make clothes and textiles resistant to stains, and improve the efficacy of aqueous firefighting foam. PFAS are used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, and electronics1, as well as ink and packaging applications due to their grease- and water-resistance properties.
Why is there concern about PFAS?
PFAS molecules are comprised of a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. Because the carbon-fluorine bond is one of the strongest, these chemicals often persist in the environment long after their practical application.
It is understood that PFAS environmental persistence may lead to water and ground contamination, and some studies have suggested PFAS exposure may be linked to human health issues. As such, there is increasing consumer and NGO concern about the presence of PFAS in the environment. As a result, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accelerated the pace of research and proposed stricter action to tackle PFAS use in an effort to protect American communities.
Addressing the use of PFAS in the US is a complex issue. The EPA’s definition of PFAS is especially broad, including chemicals with at least two adjacent carbon atoms, where one carbon is fully fluorinated and the other is at least partially fluorinated, as well as fluorocarbons with highly branched carbon chains, and also some fluoroethers. Meanwhile, many governments of US states have adopted or are considering a broad set of legislative approaches apart from the EPA.
Researchers face numerous challenges in studying this broad group of chemicals, as they often occur in complex mixtures and in a wide range of everyday products. More research is needed to understand all sources of exposure and the extent they may affect health. The complexity of the topic has resulted in a confusing regulatory environment where supply chain verification and management is increasingly difficult.
What is Flint Group doing about its use of PFAS?
Recently enacted US state and federal legislation and regulations abroad have added reporting requirements or restricted uses for PFAS chemicals. Further proposed legislation will likely broaden these restrictions, especially in food contact packaging applications.
At Flint Group, we recognise new industry challenges and respond proactively to maintain our reputation as a strong, responsible, and reliable partner to our customers and vendors. As such, we continue to optimise our product offerings and ensure compliance with the latest regulatory developments worldwide.
Flint Group has never manufactured PFAS at a Flint Group plant in the US, and our regulatory compliance programme has reviewed raw material data for the presence of intentional PFAS substances which might have been present in our product formulations. Consistent with our culture of safety, compliance and customer satisfaction, we removed any intentionally added fluorinated chemicals from our US product lines before December 31, 2022. In addition, some products have been phased out entirely and replaced with newer technology.
However, it is crucial to recognise that PFAS substances are ubiquitous. Active monitoring for the potential presence of these substances at or below trace levels (by-products or impurities) is separate from our ongoing production controls. The sheer complexity of this process makes it nearly impossible with current technology.
Regarding inks and coatings that I purchase in the United States – do I need to check with Flint Group’s Regulatory Team about PFAS to ensure compliance with regulations?
No, this is not necessary for inks and coatings purchased in the United States. From December 31, 2022, Flint Group inks and coatings produced and sold in the US do not contain intentionally added PFAS. As a trusted partner to the print and packaging industry, you can be assured that we have acted ahead of any further legislation requirements in the United States.
For more information about Flint Group products and services, please email email@example.com.