Read the full article by Dr. Emma Davies

“Regulatory schemes should be adapted to cover per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) that are highly persistent in the environment but fail to meet key bioaccumulation criteria, according to over 30 regulators and academics.

The recommendation is made in a statement on future actions on PFASs, coordinated by Zhanyun Wang and Martin Scheringer from ETH Zürich. The statement follows a two-day workshop held in Zürich in November 2017 and attended by over 50 scientists and regulators.

Longer-chain PFASs, such as PFOS and PFOA, have been phased out in much of the world, write the experts in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. However, there are still ‘many overlooked, structurally similar PFASs on the market’, they add…

‘High persistence can lead to a continuous and nearly irreversible accumulation of PFASs in the environment … even when some do not meet the current definitions of bioaccumulative substances used by the regulatory community,’ they add.

The statement points to a recent OECD study identifying 4,730 PFAS-related chemicals with Chemical Abstract Service Registry (Cas) numbers. For many of the PFASs, public information on their hazardous properties, environmental fate and transport, exposure, and toxic effects is still very limited. The experts warn that at least some of the overlooked chemicals may also be ‘contaminants of emerging global concern’ because of their high persistence and environmental mobility.

They suggest that their large number means that they should be grouped together rather than considered individually. However, they caution that such a grouping approach would require an improved mechanistic understanding of the chemicals’ toxicological properties…

‘There is a real question over whether or not these substances are really needed for the many applications they currently have,’ he adds. ‘Without proper information on the current use of PFASs, it is very difficult for consumers to make informed purchases and for policy makers to make informed decisions to protect consumers.’ …

Participants at the workshop all agreed that dealing with PFASs requires a ‘strong science-policy interface’. However, academics pointed out that they are often unaware of regulatory needs, while regulators spoke of difficulties keeping up with the ‘constant flow’ of new findings.

Improving communication between scientists and regulators is crucial, they agreed.”