What Are PFAS?
Per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals used to create coatings on various products that resist oil, water, grease, heat, and stains. Dubbed “forever chemicals,” PFAS do not break down naturally. They cannot be recycled, burned, flushed, or otherwise. As a result, they move through soil, water, air, and wildlife such as fish. These chemicals have been found in humans too.
In a recent study by Environment International, it was estimated that at least one form of PFAS could be found in 45% of U.S. drinking-water samples.
What Are the Dangers of PFAS?
Since their development in the 1900s, per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances have been used in products such as nonstick cookware, food wrappers, stain-resistant furniture, and cleaning products. They have been found in drinking water in most cities. You will also be exposed if you work in manufacturing and your products contain PFAS.
When exposed to large amounts or over a prolonged period, they can cause the following adverse effects:
- Increased cancer risk
- Hormone imbalances
- Reproductive issues
- Developmental delays and issues
- Weakened immune system
Much is still unknown about adverse effects. However, these side effects have been linked to exposure.
What is Being Done?
Over the past few decades, the U.S. government has implemented several regulations to reduce exposure to PFAS. Most of these regulations are being implemented on a state-by-state basis rather than nationwide. For example, California prohibits using formaldehyde and PFAS chemicals in cosmetics, and Illinois Truth in Recycling Act will have provisions regarding misleading claims about the recyclability of packaging.
The U.S. government is also implementing federal regulations. For example, the EPA has a strategic roadmap from 2021-2024 to manage the spread and production of PFAS. The main objectives of this roadmap included:
- Limiting the output
- Researching the impact
- Working on solutions to clean up the impacted environments
The Impact on Foundries
As more regulations are created, some industries, such as the foundry industry, will be impacted. Keeping track of how your foundry manages PFAS will be essential for accurately reporting how much you are contributing, if at all. You can read more on the subject on the American Foundry Society’s Website.
Since nonstick pots and pans contain PFAS, this will likely lead to greater production of cast-iron and stainless steel cookware in the U.S.
As the situation unfolds over the next few years, we will continue to release updates on our blog, so stay tuned.