Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) form a diverse group of
chemicals with surface-active properties manufactured
for over 50 years. In recent years, a number of
studies have reported the ubiquitous
distribution of PFCs in human
tissues and wildlife.

[This paper is one of many available on the net on this topic]

[DOC] (PFOS) and its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF)

chm.pops.int/Portals/0/download.aspx?d=UNEP-POPS…2…‎

In some applications, the flame retardant is compounded with the polymer to produce pellets … The flame retarded polymer products are typically used for the housings of office ….. A C6-fluortelomer is used as a substitute and may be effective.

Form-3, Reference-2:

Information on brominated diphenyl ethers and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF) from the risk management evaluation and a technical paper on brominated diphenyl ethers

  • As requested in paragraph 3 of decision POPRC-7/7, the Secretariat extracted the information on brominated diphenyl ethers and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF) in articles from the risk management evaluations and the technical paper on brominated diphenyl ethers developed in accordance with decision SC-4/19 as reference information for the format for the evaluation of brominated diphenyl ethers pursuant to paragraph 2 of parts IV and V of Annex A to the Stockholm Convention and work programme on brominated diphenyl ethers and PFOS, its salts and PFOSF.

  • Brominated diphenyl ethers in articles

  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in general are used as flame retardants of the additive type. They are physically combined with the material being treated rather than chemically combined (as in reactive flame retardants). This means that there is the possibility that the flame retardant may diffuse out of the treated material to some extent.

  • Industry indicates that octabromodiphenyl ether is always used in conjunction with antimony trioxide. In Europe, it was primarily used in acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) polymers at 12-18% weight loadings in the final product. Around 95% of the total octabromodiphenyl ether supplied in the EU is used in ABS. Other minor uses, accounting for the remaining 5% use, include high impact polystyrene (HIPS), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and polyamide polymers, at typical loadings of 12-15% weight in the final product. In some applications, the flame retardant is compounded with the polymer to produce pellets (masterbatch) with slightly higher loadings of flame retardant. These are then used in the polymer processing step to produce products with similar loadings as given above. The flame retarded polymer products are typically used for the housings of office equipment and business machines. Other uses that have been reported for octabromodiphenyl ether include nylon and low density polyethylene, polycarbonate, phenol-formaldehyde resins and unsaturated polyesters and in adhesives and coatings.

  • Commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether can be used or has been used in the following sectors:

  • Electrical and electronic appliances (EE appliances)

  • Computers, home electronics, office equipment, household appliances and other items containing printed circuit laminates, plastic outer casings and internal plastic parts such as small run components with rigid polyurethane elastomer instrument casings.

  • Traffic and transport

  • Cars, trains, aircraft and ships containing textile and plastic interiors and electrical components.

  • Building materials (construction industry)

  • Foam fillers, insulation boards, foam insulation, pipes, wall and floor panels, plastic sheeting, resins etc.

  • Furniture

  • Upholstered furniture, furniture covers, mattresses, flexible foam components.

  • Textiles and carpets

  • Curtains, carpets, foam sheeting under carpets, tents, tarpaulins, work clothes and protective clothing.

  • Packaging

  • Polyurethane foam based packaging materials.

  • Waste recycling industry

  • The most common use, accounting for 95-98% of commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether since 1999, has been in polyurethane foam. This foam may contain between 10 and 18% of the commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether formulation. Polyurethane foam is mainly used for furniture and upholstery in domestic furnishing, automotive and aviation industry. Other uses are in rigid polyurethane elastomers in instrument casings, in epoxy resins and phenolic resins in electrical and electronic appliances, and construction materials. For some years now, the more highly brominated decabromodiphenyl ether has been preferred in these applications. Commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether has also been incorporated in minor amounts in textiles, paints, lacquers, in rubber goods (conveyer belt, coating and floor panels) and in oil drilling fluids. Levels range from 5-30% by weight. Up to the early 1990s, commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether was used in printed circuit boards, usually FR2 laminates (phenolic resins) in Asia. Such FR2 laminates are used in household electronics (television, radio, and video), vehicle electronics, and white goods (washing machines, kitchen appliances, for example). In the early 1990s the amount of commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether used in textile treatment was 60 % of total use in the EU, but this application is now banned.

  • Commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether has been identified as an additive flame retardant in textiles (substance flow analyses in the ECE region). Manufacturers of furniture textiles have stated that the textile contained 0.45% pentabromodiphenyl ether in a Norwegian flow analysis reported in 2003. Stringent rules on flammability apply to textiles used in the public sector, the transport sector and business sector, but rules for domestic use can be less consistent. According to information obtained from the bromine industry the use of commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether as hydraulic fluid (as a component of a mixture) in petroleum borings and mining was discontinued 10-20 years ago. Australia has reported uses in manufacture of polyurethane foams for refrigerators and packaging, and in epoxy resin formulations supplied into aerospace market and for use as potting agents, laminating systems and adhesive systems. The US has reported use of commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether in the aircraft industry. There is no use of commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether in newer aircraft, and thus no exposure of the public, but commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether can still be in use in military aircraft.

Reference:

  • UNEP/POPS/POPRC.4/15/Add.1: Risk management evaluation for commercial octabromodiphenyl ether.

  • UNEP/POPS/POPRC.3/20/Add.1: Risk management evaluation for commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether.

  • UNEP/POPS/POPRC.6/2/Rev.1: Work programmes on new persistent organic pollutants as adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

  • Inventory guidance for brominated dyphenyl ethers (draft of 1 December 2011).

  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride in articles
  • Perfluorinated substances with long carbon chains, including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), are both lipid-repellent and water-repellent. Therefore, the PFOS-related substances are used as surface-active agents in different applications. The extreme persistence of these substances makes them suitable for high temperature applications and for applications in contact with strong acids or bases. It is the very strong carbon-fluorine binding property that causes the persistence of perfluorinated substances.

  • Main production process of PFOS and PFOS-related substances is electro-chemical fluorination (ECF), utilized by 3M, the major global producer of PFOS and PFOS-related substances prior to 2000.

  • Direct fluorination, electro-chemical fluorination (ECF):

C8H17SO2Cl + 18 HF → C8F17SO2F + HCl + by products

  • The reaction product, perfluorooctanesulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF) is the primary intermediate for synthesis of PFOS and PFOS-related substances. The ECF method results in a mixture of isomers and homologues with about 35-40% 8-carbon straight chain PFOSF. However, the commercial PFOSF products were a mixture of approximately 70% linear and 30% branched PFOSF derivate impurities. Other production methods for perfluoroalkylated substances are telomerisation and oligomerisation. However, to which extent these methods are applied for production of PFOS and PFOS-related substances is not evident.

  • The following applications are confirmed as historical use of PFOS-related substances: fire fighting foams, textile, carpets, leather/apparel, textiles/upholstery, paper and packaging, coatings and coating additives, industrial and household cleaning products, pesticides, photographic industry, photolithography and semiconductor, hydraulic fluids, and metal plating.

  • It is estimated that the majority of PFOS has been used as water, oil, soil and grease repellents (e.g. on fabric, leather, paper, packaging, rugs and carpets) and as surfactants (e.g. in fire fighting foams and coating additives).

  • PFOS and its precursors can be imported either as chemicals or in products for the specific uses. These comprise e.g. use as an anti-erosion additive in aviation hydraulic fluids; use as a component of a photoresist substance, including a photo acid generator or surfactant, or as a component of an anti-reflective coating, used in a photomicrolithography process to produce semiconductors or similar components of electronic or other miniaturized devices; use in coatings for surface tension, static discharge, and adhesion control for analogue and digital imaging films, papers, and printing plates, or as a surfactant in mixtures used to process imaging films; and use as an intermediate only to produce other chemical substances to be used solely for these uses. Historically, PFOS and its precursors were also used as surfactants in fire fighting foams and in industrial and household cleaning products; in carpet, textile, leather, and paper coatings; and in termite and ant bait insecticide products.

  • Fire fighting foams

The fire fighting foams can be grouped in two main categories:

  • Fluorine-containing foam types (some of them consist of PFOS-related substances)

  • Fluorine-free foam types

  • Textile/upholstery, carpet, leather/apparel

PFOS-related substances have been used to provide soil, oil and water resistance to textiles, apparels, home furnishings and upholstery, carpets, and leather products. Since 3M´s withdrawal from the market, PFOS-related substances are used to a much smaller extent for these applications.

  • Paper and packaging

PFOS-related substances have been used in the packaging and paper industries in both food packaging and commercial applications to impart grease, oil and water resistance to paper, paperboard and packaging substrates. According to 3M, fluorochemicals were used for both food contact applications (plates, food containers, bags and wraps) and non-food applications (folding cartons, containers and carbonless forms and masking papers). Since 3M´s withdrawal from the market, PFOS related substances are used to a much smaller extent for these applications.

  • Coatings and coating Additives

3M indicates that prior to its voluntary phase-out of PFOS production, the company would sell fluorochemical polymer coatings and coating additives which were used undiluted or diluted with water or butyl acetate to impart soil or water repellence to surfaces (including printing circuit boards and photographic film) (RPA and BRE, 2004).These polymers contained fluorocarbon residuals at a concentration of 4% or less. Other applications for aqueous coatings are to protect tile, marble and concrete. It is unclear which of these products were actually based on PFOS-related substances.

  • Industrial and household cleaning products (surfactants)

3M PFOS-based products were sold in the past to a variety of formulators to improve the wetting of water-based products marketed as alkaline cleaners, floor polishes (to improve wetting and levelling), denture cleansers and shampoos. Several of these products (alkaline cleaners, floor polishes, shampoos) were marketed to consumers; some products were also sold to janitorial and commercial services. A number of the alkaline cleaners were spray-applied. With regard to the UK cleaning products industry, the responses received do not indicate the use of PFOS-related substances in industrial and household cleaning products.

  • Photographic industry

PFOS-based chemicals are used for the following purposes in mixtures, in coatings applied to photographic films, papers, and printing plates:

  • Surfactants

  • Electrostatic charge control agents;

  • Friction control agents;

  • Dirt repellent agents; and

  • Adhesion control agents

  • Photolithography and semiconductor

  • Photoresist

Semiconductor manufacturing comprises up to 500 steps, of which there are four fundamental physical processes:

  • Implant

  • Deposition

  • Etching

  • Photolithography

Photolithography is the most important step towards the successful implementation of each of the other steps and, indeed, the overall process. It shapes and isolates the junctions and transistors; it defines the metallic interconnects; it delineates the electrical paths that form the transistors; and joins them together. Photolithography reportedly represents 150 of the total of 500 steps mentioned above. Photolithography is also integral to the miniaturization of semiconductors.

PFOS is used as a photoacid generator (PAG) in a mechanism called chemical amplification that increases the sensitivity of photoresist to allow etching images smaller than wavelength of light.

  • Antireflective coatings

A number of resist suppliers sell antireflective coatings (ARC), subdivided into Top (TARC) and Bottom (BARC) coatings and used in combination with deep ultra violet (DUV) photoresist. The process involves placing a thin, top coating on the resist to reduce reflective light, in much the same way and for the same purposes that eyeglasses and camera lenses are coated.

  • Hydraulic fluids (for the aviation industry)

Hydraulic fluids were initially used in aircraft to apply brake pressure. As larger and faster aircraft were designed, greater use of hydraulic fluids became necessary. An increase in the number of hydraulic fluid fires in the 1940s necessitated work towards developing fire resistant fluids. The first of these fluids was developed in 1948, when fire resistant hydraulic fluids based on phosphate ester chemistry were developed.

Perfluorinated anions act by altering the electrical potential at the metal surface, thereby preventing the electrochemical oxidation of the metal surface under high fluid flow conditions. As a result, hydraulic fluids based on phosphate ester technology and incorporating additives based on perfluorinated anions are used in all commercial aircraft, and in many military and general aviation aircraft throughout the world, as well as by every airframe manufacturer.

  • Metal plating

The main uses of PFOS-related substances in metal plating are for chromium plating, and anodising and acid pickling. PFOS related substances lower the surface tension of the plating solution so that mist containing chromic acid from the plating activity is trapped in solution and is not released to air.

  • Others

There is information on other historical or current PFOS applications such as in pesticides, medical applications, mining and oil surfactants, flame retardants and in adhesives. Based on current understanding, these applications represent a minor part of known PFOS applications and are therefore not further elaborated in this profile.

Table 1. Production and use of PFOS and its related substances according to Annex B to the Stockholm Convention

Production and use of PFOS and its related substances

Annex B to the Stockholm Convention

  • Production of PFOS and its related substances

  • Solely for the uses listed as acceptable purposes or specific exemptions

  • Fire fighting foams

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Aviation hydraulic fluids

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Medical devices

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Electric and electronic parts in colour printers and colour copy machines

  • Specific exemption

  • Textiles and upholstery

  • Specific exemption

  • Carpets

  • Specific exemption

  • Paper and packaging

  • Specific exemption

Pesticide:

  • Insect bait for leaf-cutting ants

  • Insecticide for fire ants and termites

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Specific exemption

  • Leather and apparel

  • Specific exemption

Coatings and coating additives:

  • Wax and polishes

  • Water proof spray

  • Paint

  • Specific exemption

  • Specific exemption

  • Specific exemption

Industrial and household cleaning products:

  • Denture cleanser

  • Shampoos

  • Cleaning agents

  • Cosmetics and hand cream

  • Toner and printing ink

  • Sealants and adhesive products

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Floor polishes

  • Banned

  • Denture cleanser

  • Banned

  • Shampoos

  • Banned

  • Cleaning agents, wax and polishes

  • Banned

  • Water proof spray

  • Banned

  • Paint

  • Banned

  • Cosmetics and hand cream

  • Banned

  • Toner and printing ink

  • Banned

  • Sealants and adhesive products

  • Banned

Rubber and plastic:

  • Release agent in the manufacturing process

  • Specific exemption

  • Recycling of carpets

  • Banned uses

Photographic industry:

  • Photoimaging

  • Acceptable purpose

Semi-conductor industry:

  • Photoresist and anti-reflective coating

  • Etching agent for compound semi-conductors and ceramic filters

  • Photomask

  • Edge bead removers

  • De-gluing agents

  • Developing agent

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Specific exemption

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

Electronic industry:

  • Photoresist and anti-reflective coating

  • Etching agent for compound semi-conductors and ceramic filters

  • Metal plating in closed loop-system

  • Photomask

  • Hard metal plating

  • Decorative metal plating

  • Desmear agent

  • Dispersion

  • Surface treatment

  • Solder

  • Paint

  • Adhesive

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Specific exemption

  • Specific exemption

  • Specific exemption

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

  • Banned

Metal plating industry:

  • Metal plating in closed loop-system

  • Hard metal plating

  • Decorative metal plating

  • Acceptable purpose

  • Specific exemption

  • Specific exemption

  • Chemically driven oil and gas production

  • Specific exemption

  • Mining industry

  • Banned

Table 2. Use categories of PFOS and its related substances and alternatives

Use category

Use of PFOS related substances

Alternatives used

Impregnation of textiles, leather and carpets

PFOS-related substances have been phased out in most OECD countries.

Other fluorinated compounds, like C6-fluorotelomers and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid, silicone-based products, stearamidomethyl pyridine chloride

Impregnation of paper and cardboard

PFOS-related substances have been phased out in most OECD countries.

Fluorotelomer-based substances and phosphates, mechanical processes

Cleaning agents, waxes/ polishes for cars and floors

PFOS-related substances have been phased out in most OECD countries.

Fluorotelomer-based substances, fluorinated polyethers, C4 perfluorinated compounds

Surface coatings, paint and varnish

PFOS-related substances have been phased out in most OECD countries.

Telomer-based compounds, fluorinated polyethers, perfluorobutane sulfonic acid, propylated aromatics, silicone surfactants, sulfosuccinates, polypropylene glycol ethers

Oil production and mining

PFOS derivatives may occasionally be used as surfactants in the oil and mining industries.

perfluorobutane sulfonic acid, telomer-based fluorosurfactants, perfluoroalkyl-substituted amines, acids, amino acids and thioether acids

Photographic industry

A shift to digital techniques has reduced the use drastically.

Telomer-based surfactants products,hydrocarbon surfactants, silicone products, C3-C4-fluorinated chemicals

Electrical and electronic parts

PFOS-based chemicals are or have been used in the manufacturing of digital cameras, mobile phones, printers, scanners, satellite communication and radar systems, etc.

For most of these uses, alternatives are available or are under development.

Semiconductor industry

PFOS is still used but in lower concentrations.

No substitutes with comparable effectiveness for some specific uses have been identified, and doing so may take up to 5 years, according to the industry. It should be possible to use perfluorobutane sulfonic acid, fluorinated polyethers or telomers.

Aviation hydraulic oils

PFOS-related compounds may still be used.

Other fluorinated substances and phosphate compounds could be used.

Pesticides

Sulfluramid is used in some countries as an active substance and surfactant in pesticide products for termites, cockroaches and other insects. Other fluorosurfactants may be used as “inert” surfactants in other pesticide products.

Synthetic piperonyl compounds such as S-Methoprene, Pyriproxyfen, Fipronil are alternative active substances, sometimes used in combination. Alternative surfactants may exist.

Medical devices

Old video endoscopes at hospitals contain a CCD colour filter that contains a small amount of PFOS. PFOS is also used as an effective dispersant for contrast agents in radio-opaque catheters.

Repairing such video endoscopes requires a CCD colour filter containing PFOS. New CCD filters are PFOS-free. For radioopaque ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, perfluorobutane sulfonic acid can replace PFOS.

Metal plating

PFOS-compounds are still used in hard chrome plating.

Cr-III has replaced Cr-VI in decorative chrome plating.

Some non-fluorinated alternatives are marketed but they are not considered equally effective in hard chrome plating.

A C6-fluortelomer is used as a substitute and may be effective. Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid derivatives may also be used. Physical barriers may also apply.

Fire-fighting foams

The use of PFOS-related substances in new products has been phased out in most OECD countries. Stocks are still being used up.

C6– fluorotelomers are used as substitutes in new products; fluorine-free alternatives are used for training exercises and possibly in other settings than offshore.

Reference:

  • UNEP/POPS/POPRC.3/20/Add.5: Risk management evaluation on perfluorooctane sulfonate.

  • UNEP/POPS/POPRC.4/15/Add.6: Addendum to the risk management evaluation for perfluorooctane sulfonate.

  • Inventory for PFOS and related chemicals (draft of 1 December 2011).

Please note:

The “F” in all of the abbreviations below is for fluoride

PFASs, PFCs, PFOS,
PFOA, PFHxS,

PFAS,

Australian Health Protection Principal Committee Per- and

poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) FactSheet

What are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as “PFASs”, are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of non- stick cookware; fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; some industrial processes; and in some types of fire-fighting foam.

Until recently, this group of chemicals was known as “perfluorinated chemicals”, or “PFCs”. The name change has come about to avoid confusion with another group of chemicals that are relevant to climate change, which are also known as “PFCs”.

There are many types of PFASs. The best known examples are: o perfluorooctane sulfonate, also known as “PFOS”; and o perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as “PFOA”.

Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) is another chemical of the PFAS group and is also present in some fire-fighting foams.

Are these chemicals manufactured or used in Australia?

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has monitored PFOS and PFOA use in Australia through four national surveys, which show that these chemicals are not manufactured in Australia.

PFOS and related compounds are currently imported into Australia, mainly for use as mist suppressants in the metal plating industry, hydraulic fluid in the aviation industry and surfactants in the photography industry.

PFOA and related chemicals were previously imported into Australia and used in the local manufacture of non-stick cookware. These chemicals are not present in the finished cookware.

Until recently, PFOS and PFOA were added to some types of fire-fighting foam to improve the foam’s ability to smother fires. There are believed to be stockpiles of fire-fighting foams containing PFASs still in use.

PFOS and PFOA may be present in a range of imported consumer products, although many countries have phased out, or are progressively phasing out the use of PFOS and PFOA due to concerns about their persistence, bioaccumulation and environmental toxicity.

Updated June 2016NICNAS has recommended since 2002 that Australian industries should actively seek alternatives to PFASs and PFAS-related substances. The alternative chemicals should be less toxic and not persist in the environment.

Have PFOS and PFOA contaminated sites in Australia?

Currently there are investigations into environmental contamination with PFOS and PFOA at a number of sites around Australia. These include the Country Fire Authority training facility at Fiskville, Victoria; the RAAF Base at Williamtown, NSW; and the Army Aviation Centre at Oakey, Queensland.

The historic use of PFAS-containing fire-fighting foams has resulted in areas within these sites becoming contaminated with PFOS and PFOA. Over the past decades, these chemicals have worked their way through the soil to contaminate surface and ground water, and have also migrated into adjoining land areas.

There are potentially other contaminated sites around Australia at which PFAS- containing fire-fighting foams have been used, which are being investigated.

How do PFASs enter the environment?

In addition to contamination from the use of fire-fighting foams, PFASs can be released into the environment from landfill sites where products and materials that contain these chemicals are sent for disposal, and into ground and surface water through sewer discharges.

Manufacturing facilities that handle PFASs are also sources of PFAS release into the environment.

The biggest environmental concern about PFOS and PFOA is that they do not break down in the environment and can travel long distances in water and air currents. They have been shown to be widespread global contaminants and many countries are now monitoring and restricting their use.

PFOS and PFOA have been shown to be toxic to some animals, and because they don’t break down they can bioaccumulate and biomagnify in some wildlife, including fish. This means that fish and animals higher in the food chain may accumulate high concentrations of PFOS and PFOA in their bodies.

The toxicity, mobility, persistence and bioaccumulation potential of PFOS and PFOA pose potential concerns for the environment and for human health.

 

Please note:

The “F” in all of the abbreviations below is for fluoride

PFASs, PFCs, PFOS,
PFOA, PFHxS,

PFAS,

Australian Health Protection Principal Committee Per- and

poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) FactSheet

What are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as “PFASs”, are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of non- stick cookware; fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; some industrial processes; and in some types of fire-fighting foam.

Until recently, this group of chemicals was known as “perfluorinated chemicals”, or “PFCs”. The name change has come about to avoid confusion with another group of chemicals that are relevant to climate change, which are also known as “PFCs”.

There are many types of PFASs. The best known examples are: o perfluorooctane sulfonate, also known as “PFOS”; and o perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as “PFOA”.

Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) is another chemical of the PFAS group and is also present in some fire-fighting foams.

Are these chemicals manufactured or used in Australia?

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has monitored PFOS and PFOA use in Australia through four national surveys, which show that these chemicals are not manufactured in Australia.

PFOS and related compounds are currently imported into Australia, mainly for use as mist suppressants in the metal plating industry, hydraulic fluid in the aviation industry and surfactants in the photography industry.

PFOA and related chemicals were previously imported into Australia and used in the local manufacture of non-stick cookware. These chemicals are not present in the finished cookware.

Until recently, PFOS and PFOA were added to some types of fire-fighting foam to improve the foam’s ability to smother fires. There are believed to be stockpiles of fire-fighting foams containing PFASs still in use.

PFOS and PFOA may be present in a range of imported consumer products, although many countries have phased out, or are progressively phasing out the use of PFOS and PFOA due to concerns about their persistence, bioaccumulation and environmental toxicity.

Updated June 2016NICNAS has recommended since 2002 that Australian industries should actively seek alternatives to PFASs and PFAS-related substances. The alternative chemicals should be less toxic and not persist in the environment.

Have PFOS and PFOA contaminated sites in Australia?

Currently there are investigations into environmental contamination with PFOS and PFOA at a number of sites around Australia. These include the Country Fire Authority training facility at Fiskville, Victoria; the RAAF Base at Williamtown, NSW; and the Army Aviation Centre at Oakey, Queensland.

The historic use of PFAS-containing fire-fighting foams has resulted in areas within these sites becoming contaminated with PFOS and PFOA. Over the past decades, these chemicals have worked their way through the soil to contaminate surface and ground water, and have also migrated into adjoining land areas.

There are potentially other contaminated sites around Australia at which PFAS- containing fire-fighting foams have been used, which are being investigated.

How do PFASs enter the environment?

In addition to contamination from the use of fire-fighting foams, PFASs can be released into the environment from landfill sites where products and materials that contain these chemicals are sent for disposal, and into ground and surface water through sewer discharges.

Manufacturing facilities that handle PFASs are also sources of PFAS release into the environment.

The biggest environmental concern about PFOS and PFOA is that they do not break down in the environment and can travel long distances in water and air currents. They have been shown to be widespread global contaminants and many countries are now monitoring and restricting their use.

PFOS and PFOA have been shown to be toxic to some animals, and because they don’t break down they can bioaccumulate and biomagnify in some wildlife, including fish. This means that fish and animals higher in the food chain may accumulate high concentrations of PFOS and PFOA in their bodies.

The toxicity, mobility, persistence and bioaccumulation potential of PFOS and PFOA pose potential concerns for the environment and for human health.