Why PFOA is Banned by the European Union

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a man-made chemical used to make fluoropolymer products and coatings that are resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.

Until 2013, PFOA was best known for use in the process of making Teflon, a nonstick coating for cookware and other applications. The largest use of PFOA in recent decades is in fire-fighting foams for fire drills or extinguishing industrial fires. The chemical is found in stain-resistant carpet, water-repellent clothing and even cardboard packaging. PFOA is also created during the breakdown process of some chemicals.

PFOA is extremely stable, which is both its best and worst quality. This means that once PFOA is detected, it is not going anywhere. It is omnipresent in the environment and in humans. PFOA is present across the globe at very low but detectable levels in virtually everyone’s blood. Higher blood levels are found in those who have worked with the chemical and in those who live in a community with a contaminated water supply. So what is the big deal?

Why PFOA is Banned by the European Union

PFOA exposure is a health hazard. Multiple studies in both the United States and abroad have found high levels of exposure can cause kidney and testicular cancer, birth defects, liver damage, thyroid disease and major gastrointestinal issues. The United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a lifetime health advisory for PFOA in May 2016. Drinking water standards set maximum levels of PFOA, but the chemical has not been banned in the United States. Other countries have taken a different approach.

In May 2019, the International Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was signed by more than 180 countries. It signaled an agreement to ban the production and use of PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds. The European Union, a large part of the Stockholm Convention, held to its word and completely banned PFOA as of July 4, 2020 with some exemptions including medical textiles and some fire-fighting foams. Most PFOAs are being replaced by safer alternatives across Europe, and some countries such as Denmark are taking it a step further. They are lobbying to ban all perfluorinated substances to improve the intended outcome of the ban.

PFOA isn’t going anywhere. It makes sense to ensure that its use is not only regulated, but that those regulations are enforced to protect the environment and ourselves. When it comes to making smart and safe choices for your plastics injection molding needs, count on the experience of The Tool Room, serving the Greater St Louis area since 1978. We can explain the process for your tooling project, and you can feel good knowing that public health and environmental safety are at the forefront of our business. Call us today at (573) 437-4154.

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