EU Reportedly Mulls Softer PFAS Restrictions


The European Union, according to news reports, is mulling whether to proceed with a proposed complete ban of new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, after numerous industry complaints it would hamper the manufacturing and availability of thousands of essential products, including finished lubricants.

The European Commission, the EU’s governing body, earlier this year laid out plans to phase out the substances, which are widely used but which are also raising increasing concerns as researchers learn the extent to which they are accumulating in environments and living organisms. The proposal aims to prohibit the use of 7,000 to 12,000 substances in all marketable forms, including PFAS, referred to as “forever chemicals,” which pose ecological and human health hazards according to some studies.

But calls to amend the bill grew increasingly loud during the six-month consultation period that ended in September. The European Chemicals Agency registered more than 5,600 comments on this matter. Drug manufacturers, chemical producers, lube makers and many other players from variety of industry sectors registered concerns.

In a statement in August, German lube maker Elkalub said the proposed restriction could have “massive technical implications for lubricant performance.”

German chemical giant BASF blamed ”overregulation” for its recent decision to downsize permanently in Europe. The VCI, Germany’s chemical industry association, argued for a risk-based approach to regulation, advocating for the postponement of the PFAS ban, which the association claims would have disastrous effects on the German chemical industry.

PFAS can become part of lubricants in two common ways – either as perfluoropolyether, PFPE, or as polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE, which is better known as the brand name Teflon. PFPEs are usually used as lube oils or thickeners in lubricating greases. Because of their high stability, PFPE oils and greases are used for lubrication that lasts over the entire life of the products. Typically, they are applied in high-temperature and vacuum applications. PTFE is used as micro powder or dispersions in lubricant production, and in very low concentration it is used as a lube additive or thickener.

A leaked document published by The Guardian and other news outlets last week shows that the European Commission is considering a regulation less stringent than the original approach outlined in its chemical strategy in 2020, part of the European Green Deal. The document shows that EC presented three alternatives, limiting 1%, 10%, or 50% of all marketable products containing PFAS.

Some PFAS are already regulated through the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals regulation, known as REACH.

The initially proposed PFAS restriction envisages an almost complete ban implemented in three transition periods: within 18 months or 6.5 years for most varieties; and 13.5 years for those deemed most essential. European industry has already reacted, and some chemical companies scaled down their production or increased investments in research and development of alternatives.

European environmentalists, left-wing parties, groups and progressives have alleged that the EU abandoned its promise for environmentally safe products. Meanwhile, center-right lawmakers and politicians such as French President Emmanuel Macron called for a European regulatory break, warning that the EU could lose its technological edge over the United States or China because “of an unstable regulatory environment that would cause harm to investments,” Macron said in May, reported Politico.

As of now, the proposed deadline for enforcement of what could become the bloc’s most extensive piece of regulation of the chemical industry, is set at 2025 or 2026. The discussion in the EU regulative bodies about this massive regulation is still ongoing. 

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Automotive Lubricants    Finished Lubricants