Time’s Up: PFAS Regulations and their Rapidly Increasing Impact on Companies

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November 10, 20233E Regulatory Research TeamBlog

A strong bond is a good thing…most of the time.

Romances that have a strong bond tend to last longer. Friendships with deep connections are more likely to be lifelong instead of seasonal. And houses made of strongly bonded materials do better in extreme weather. 

But when it comes to Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), having a strong bond isn’t good - for the environment, or for worker safety. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PFAS have been around since the 1940s and, because of their strongly bonded chemicals, they tend to stick around for generations. This can all too easily spell trouble, since PFAS and their related chemical groups, such as Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), touch our lives in a wide variety of ways, including cleaning products, clothing, textiles, the food that we eat, and even the foam used to fight fires.  

The corporate concern: marketability, worker safety and compliance 

From a manufacturer’s perspective, screening products for PFAS and knowing what actions to take based on that screening is vital, particularly to avoid product recalls and surprises when planning to enter products into the market. In addition, maintaining updated Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) is critical for protecting workers and consumers. 

PFAS regulations are not only expanding in the U.S. – they’re popping up everywhere. Manufacturers, distributors and importers of products with PFAS must be aware of global restrictions and must comply with complex regulations.  

If you’re not sure where your jurisdiction stands as of today, here’s a quick rundown: 

  • Bans in China include the manufacturing of PFOS starting March 1st, 2023, the use of PFOS in firefighting foam starting Dec. 31st, 2023 and the import/export of PFOS starting Jan. 1st, 2024. 
  • In the U.S., the state of Maine has banned the intentional addition of PFAS to carpets and fabrics (the ban is already in effect). On a national scale, there is a one-time reporting requirement for PFAS within the timespan of Nov. 12th, 2024, and May 8th, 2025. And the nation’s definition of PFAS remains inconsistent, which creates further complications for compliance. 

PFAS requirements are here to stay

One thing to keep in mind is that PFAS regulations will only increase and grow more rigorous in the years to come, particularly as more scientific knowledge surrounding the dangers of PFAS comes to light. Companies that don’t catch up to new requirements may face go-to-market barriers as well as product recalls.

Just as the bond between the elements of PFAS are strong, so too is the need for companies to develop a strong relationship with their workers and customers. One way to do this is through compliance with PFAS requirements, an eye toward safer alternatives and an approach that prioritizes sustainability. 

For a deeper dive, our webinar, New PFAS Regulations Around the Globe, is available here

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