The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), an agency of the EU, announced on January 13 that it has officially received a proposal from the national authorities of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to restrict per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), the EU’s chemicals regulation.
ECHA will publish the detailed proposal, which it called “one of the broadest in the EU’s history” – and could have significant ramifications for the cooling and heating industry – on February 7, 2023.
PFAS – called “forever chemicals” because of their durability in nature – are associated with a wide range of household products and have been linked to adverse human health outcomes.
The restriction proposal comes after the five authorities “found risks in the manufacture, placement on the market and use of PFASs that are not adequately controlled and need to be addressed throughout the EU and the European Economic Area,” said ECHA in its announcement.
In July 2021 the five countries announced their intention to submit the proposal by July 2022, but the submission was delayed until now.
Notably, the PFAS chemicals in the submission include some HFC and HFO refrigerants as well as trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), an atmospheric degradation product of HFO-1234yf and other f-gases. These f-gases and TFA are considered to be part of the PFAS category by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), though not by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
ECHA will run the required administrative checks before the proposed restriction and supporting documents are made available onFebruary 7. On the same day, the national authorities will host a hybrid media event in Brussels from 11:00 to 12:30 (CET).
Over the past three years, the five national authorities have investigated different PFASs, their uses and the risks they may pose to people and the environment. They held two public consultations to gather evidence on the use of these substances and examined all information received.
ECHA’s scientific committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) will check that the proposed restriction meets the legal requirements of REACH in their meetings in March 2023. If it does, the committees will begin their scientific evaluation of the proposal.
A six-month consultation is planned to start on March 22, 2023. An online information session will be organized on April 5, 2023 to explain the restriction process and help those interested in participating in the consultation.
The opinions of RAC and SEAC are normally ready within 12 months of the start of the scientific evaluation, in accordance with REACH. However, in view of the “complexity of the proposal and the extent of information that is expected from the consultation,” the committees may need more time to finalize their opinions, ECHA said.
Once the opinions are adopted, they are sent to the European Commission, which together with the EU Member States will then decide on a potential restriction.
Five European Countries “found risks in the manufacture, placement on the market and use of PFASs that are not adequately controlled and need to be addressed throughout the EU and the European Economic Area.”:ECHA