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January 27, 2010

Perfluorinated Polymers Targeted

Chemical Regulation: Citing concerns about persistence and toxicity, EPA toughens rules

Cheryl Hogue

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The Environmental Protection Agency is strengthening regulation of perfluorinated polymers that contain perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFAS), perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFAC), fluorinated alcohols called telomers, and perfluoroalkyl moieties that are covalently bonded to a carbon or sulfur atom that is an integral part of the polymer molecule.

These polymers are used to impart stain, oil, and water resistance as well as reduced flammability in carpets and in coatings on paper and fabrics. According to EPA, these types of polymers may degrade and release fluorinated compounds that are expected to persist in the environment, may bioaccumulate, and may be highly toxic.

Since 1995, EPA has allowed companies to produce or import most new polymers--including perfluorinated ones--without submitting premanufacture notices to the agency. These notices are required for most other commercial chemicals before they can enter the marketplace. But makers of polymers, which EPA generally views as stable and nonreactive, can simply inform the agency that their material is exempt from the premanufacture notice requirement.

Now, under a rule finalized on Jan. 27, EPA is eliminating that exemption for certain perfluorinated polymers. The new rule affects manufacturers and importers of perfluorinated polymers and applies to such materials that are or were produced under the 1995 exemption and to any new ones that companies want to commercialize.

Manufacturers and importers have choices under the new rule. One option is for them to submit premanufacture notices for their polymers. An alternative is to ask EPA for one of two types of ongoing exemptions to the general premanufacture notice requirement for commercial chemicals. One exemption applies to substances produced in low volumes; another is for compounds expected to have low rates of release and exposure.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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