The EU’s planned ban on the entire PFAS group of substances would endanger many industrial processes – especially the technologies of the energy transition.
Many entrepreneurs from the mechanical and plant engineering sector are calling for the ban to be stopped and for a differentiated view of the substances.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely used in industrial production, especially where extreme conditions prevail: high temperatures, strong abrasion or aggressive chemical conditions. This makes them indispensable for important technologies of the energy system change, for example the production of fuel cells, heat pumps, solar systems or hydrogen electrolysers. Such a comprehensive PFAS ban of around 10,000 chemical substances, as the EU is now planning due to environmental hazards in the area of consumer products (ski waxes, Teflon pans or outdoor jackets), would therefore have a devastating effect in the entire industry. It would be as exaggerated as it would be unjustified. This is because a whole series of PFAS, the so-called “polymers of low concern”, are not a danger to the environment according to the OECD and must therefore be exempted from a ban, demands the VDMA in a new position paper.
“In this way, the association also supports the approach taken in Great Britain. With the 10,000 substances, everything is lumped together, although the various PFAS groups are very different,” warns Dr Sarah Brückner, Head of VDMA Environmental Affairs and Sustainability. “We should take our cue from the UK and look at the substance groups in a differentiated way.”
„As a result, the planned ban would mean that European producers would have to do without PFAS, while competitors from non-European countries could continue to use the substances and thus gain considerable competitive advantages. “, says Dr. Sarah Brückner, Head of VDMA Environmental Affairs and Sustainability
In addition, the EU would shoot itself in the foot with this ban. This is because there is no standardised method of analysis to identify products containing PFAS that are imported into Europe. There is also a lack of corresponding information in the supply chains. “As a result, the planned ban would mean that European producers would have to do without PFAS, while competitors from non-European countries could continue to use the substances and thus gain considerable competitive advantages,” explains Dr Brückner.
The VDMA therefore demands:
- A differentiated regulation of PFAS substances, in subgroups that are scientifically evaluated separately,
- a general exemption from the ban for polymers that have been proven to be non-hazardous,
- an exception for industrial applications where safe handling requirements can be found and implemented,
- an exemption from the ban for PFAS products that do not come into contact with the environment (for example, because they are installed inside a machine),
- a significantly longer transitional period until the ban comes into force than the envisaged 18 months,
- a much longer or indefinite period during which PFAS substances may be used for spare and wear parts for machinery and equipment already on the market.