Worldwide scientific community unites to highlight that PFASs substances are persistent and harmful – which includes C6 fluorinated AFFF foams

Published:  27 October, 2014

The Madrid Statement documents widespread scientific consensus regarding the persistence and potential for harm of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), and lays out a roadmap to gather needed information and prevent further harm.

Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are organic compounds with multiple carbon-fluorine bonds. They are used in various commercial products, including aqueous fire fighting foams (AFFF), products with non-stick coatings, and water-proof clothing.

The two most persistent and widely detected PFASs are perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Other fluorinated compounds, such as fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs), can transform to PFOA and PFOS in the environment via biological and physico-chemical processes.

177 scientists and consultants from universities, laboratories and research organisations from across the world have signed the Madrid Statement.

The Madrid Statement calls on the international community to cooperate in limiting the production and use of PFASs and in developing safer non-fluorinated alternatives.

The scientists’ proposals go way beyond those adopted in 2006 by the US Environmental Protection Agency when it launched a global stewardship with two goals:

  • To commit to achieve, no later than 2010, a 95% reduction, measured from a year 2000 baseline, in both facility emissions to all media of PFOA, precursor chemicals that can break down to PFOA, and related higher homologue chemicals, and product content levels of these chemicals.
  • To commit to working toward the elimination of these chemicals from emissions and products by 2015.

The Madrid Statement follows the publication in June of the Helsingør Statement on poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs).

The Helsingør Statement summarises key concerns about the potential impacts of fluorinated alternatives (such as C6 fluorinated AFFF foams, which are deemed acceptable by the US EPA) on human health and the environment in order to provide concise information for different stakeholders and the public.

These concerns include, amongst others:

  • the likelihood of fluorinated alternatives or their transformation products becoming ubiquitously present in the global environment;
  • the need for more information on uses, properties and effects of fluorinated alternatives; the formation of persistent terminal transformation products including PFCAs and PFSAs;
  • increasing environmental and human exposure and potential for adverse effects as a consequence of the high ultimate persistence and increasing usage of fluorinated alternatives;
  • the high societal costs that would be caused if the uses, environmental fate, and adverse effects of fluorinated alternatives had to be investigated by publicly funded research;
  • and the lack of consideration of non-persistent alternatives to long-chain PFASs.

The Madrid Statement urges scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers to take the following actions:

A. Scientists:

1. Assemble, in collaboration with industry and governments, a global inventory of all PFASs in use or in the environment, including precursors and degradation products, their functionality, properties, and toxicology.

2. Develop analytical methods for the identification and quantification of additional families of PFASs, including fluorinated alternatives.

3. Continue monitoring for historical-use PFASs in different matrices and for environmental reservoirs of PFASs.

4. Continue investigating the mechanisms of toxicity and exposure (e.g. sources, fate, transport, and bioaccumulation of PFASs) and improve methods for testing the safety of alternatives.

5. Bring research results to the attention of policy makers, industry, the media, and the public.

B. Governments:

1. Enact legislation to require only essential uses of PFASs and enforce labeling to indicate uses.

2. Require manufacturers of PFASs to:

  • conduct more extensive toxicological testing
  • make chemical structures public
  • provide validated analytical methods for detection of PFASs
  • assume extended producer responsibility and implement safe disposal of products and stockpiles containing PFASs.

3. Work with industry to develop public inventories of products containing PFASs.

4. Make public annual statistical data on production, imports, and exports of PFASs.

5. Whenever possible, avoid products containing, or manufactured using, PFASs in government procurement.

6. In collaboration with industry, ensure and enforce that an infrastructure is in place to safely transport, dispose of, and destroy PFASs and PFAS-containing products.

C. Chemical manufacturers:

1. Make data on PFASs public, including chemical structures, properties, and toxicology.

2. Provide scientists with standard samples to enable environmental monitoring of PFASs, including precursors and degradation products.

3. Provide the supply chain with documentation on PFASs content and safe disposal.

4. Work with scientists and governments to develop safe disposal methods for PFASs.

5. Develop non-fluorinated alternatives that are neither persistent nor toxic.

D. Product manufacturers and other professional users:

1. Stop using PFASs where they are not essential or when safer alternatives exist.

2. Develop inexpensive and sensitive PFAS quantification methods for compliance testing.

3. Label products containing PFASs, including chemical identity and disposal guidelines.

4. Invest in the development and use of non-fluorinated alternatives.

E. Purchasing organizations, retailers, and individual consumers:

1. Whenever possible, avoid products containing, or manufactured using, PFASs. These include many products that are stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick.

2. Question the use of such fluorinated “performance” chemicals added to consumer products.

Some commentators have pointed out that internationally one of the key regulatory triggers (for example by the Stockholm Convention) for considering restricting a material – in addition to the PBT profile – is if there is evidence of long-range transport (LRT/LRAT) either in the atmosphere or in the oceans.

  • Operation Florian

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