The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many state governments and certain major retailers are moving rapidly to regulate per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are considered an urgent public health and environmental issue facing communities across the United States. While many of these regulations explicitly pertain to public water systems as well as the electroplating and finishing industries, there are important implications for the metalworking fluid and lubricant industries.
The EPA regards PFAS as an urgent issue because peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that certain levels of exposure to certain PFAS may have such adverse effects on human health as decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, increased risks of certain cancers, and higher levels of cholesterol and risk of obesity. Research is ongoing to better understand the consequences of exposure, but it is a complex situation. There are thousands of PFAS, ranging from fluorosurfacts to fluoropolymers.
PFAS are ubiquitous, and exposure to them is unavoidable. PFAS are present in drinking water systems, soil and water at or near waste sites, dust, fire extinguishing foams, fish and dairy products, food packaging, personal care products, treatments for fabrics, coatings for cookware, cleaning products, paints, varnishes and sealants. In particular, PFAS are used in facilities that perform plating, manufacture electronics, and produce certain textile and paper products. People can be exposed to PFAS by drinking water, consuming food, inhaling dust, or using products or substances formulated with, contaminated by or packaged in materials containing PFAS.