PFAS: Sounding the AlarmJune 2, 2023 | Suhani Chitalia, IPC Environmental Regulatory Affairs Manager
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Man-made chemicals known as PFAS have regulators busy trying to address previous releases and prevent future releases of this chemical into the environment from widespread uses in manufacturing processes and products used across the globe. PFAS chemicals tend to be persistent in the environment and they have been used long enough and in enough applications that their unwanted presence in the environment has public health policymakers concerned.
PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a family of chemicals generally defined by the presence of a carbon-fluorine bond. PFAS resist chemicals, water, and oils, and perform many different functions in products useful in our daily lives.
PFAS released to the environment can remain in the environment—they are persistent chemicals. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals composing the family of PFAS. Some, depending on the complexity of the molecule, perform differently, have a different lifetime, and have different potential for adverse health effects in exposed populations.
We are advocating on behalf of the electronics industry globally and sounding the alarm within the electronics manufacturing industry: Now more than ever it is imperative to understand the chemicals used in your products and the processes used to make those products, and if you’re not taking action to learn more, you may find your ability to purchase or use a critical chemical has been restricted. If you're not aware of the chemical makeup of your products, and if and where PFAS chemicals exist, it's time to really start looking into this. We recognize more and more that companies will need to either be prepared to disclose PFAS in their products, or the government will impose a requirement.
What Role Does Advocacy Play in PFAS?
In my experience as an environmental attorney, and as IPC’s environmental regulatory affairs manager, I recognize that there is often a lack of data to back up community-based environmental cases. There’s a disconnect between the science and what is happening to people (or what we’re concerned could be happening), and it’s hard to make that connection. It happens all the time with environmental laws and regulations. While government works diligently to protect public health and the environment, the laws are often broad and rather lofty. The importance of advocacy and understanding the implications of a law are critical. Providing the government with data to support a policy ensures thoughtful and sustainable regulations that can be effectively enforced. With input from stakeholders, it is often found that it is more useful to protect public health when you have a narrower regulatory scope that is more realistically achievable.
To read the rest of this article, which appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of IPC Community, click here.
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