ChemSec (The International Chemical Secretariat), a nonprofit organization funded by the Swedish government, has updated its SIN (Substitute It Now) List of hazardous chemicals to include f-gases that are considered per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or “forever chemicals.”

These f-gases fall under the definition of PFAS set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is used by scientists worldwide.

The SIN List was developed in 2008 to inform stakeholders of chemicals that should be addressed by restrictions under the EU REACH Regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). In essence, the list consists of chemicals that have been identified by ChemSec as being substances of very high concern (SVHC), based on the criteria defined within REACH.

The SIN List is developed in close collaboration with scientists and technical experts, as well as an advisory committee of leading environmental, health, consumer organizations. It is based on publicly available information from existing databases and scientific studies.

Commonly used f-gas refrigerants can now be found in the ChemSec list. For example, almost half of the HFCs listed in Annex I of the EU F-gas Regulation, such as HFC-125, HFC-134a and HFC-143a, are included. In addition, several HFOs listed in Annex II are now in the list, including commonly used refrigerants such as HFO-1234yf, HFO-1234ze and HFO-1336mzz.

HFC-134a, with a Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number 811-97-2, and HFO-1234yf (CAS number 754-12-1) are included in the SIN list for the following reason: “Do not degrade in the environment – a ‘forever chemical.’ PFAS chemicals are widespread in the environment and linked to a number of health and environmental problems. Very Persistent (vP).”

Trifluoroacetate (TFA), also known as trifluoroacetic acid, an atmospheric degradation product of HFO-1234yf and R134a, has been included in the SIN List since 2019 because of its persistent, mobile and toxic (PMT) features, meaning it is “toxic to water living organisms, degrades slowly in the environment, transports easily in water and is hard to remove in water treatment plants,” says ChemSec.

“We want to make clear that we think every single PFAS should be phased out, no matter how many they are,” said Anna Lennquists, Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec and project leader for the SIN List during the webinar set up to announce the update. “But what this update aims for is to narrow them down to the most relevant couple of hundred substances for companies to keep track of.”

The ChemSec update brings the number of PFAS in the list to 470. The list can be accessed for free by registering with the organization online.

EU efforts on PFAS

ChemSec’s move takes place as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), an agency of the EU, is about to publish a proposal from the national authorities of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to restrict PFAS chemicals, including some f-gases and TFA, under REACH. ECHA announced on January 13 that it had received the proposal.

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.

The event will be held at the Dutch Embassy in Brussels and made available online. More information can be found here.

In addition, as negotiations of the revision of the EU F-gas proceed among the European Parliament, Council and Commission, some parties, such as the Greens, the Left/GUE (United Green Left) and the rapporteur for S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), have cited the risk of opening the door to HFOs that are PFAS despite their low GWP. They have asked for a complete decoupling of refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump applications from f-gases (whether HFCs or HFOs) between 2024 and 2027.