Purpose of Web Portal: Scope
This Web Portal is designed to facilitate information exchange on perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). The portal is designed to allow stakeholders to share information on government activities related to their regulatory and stewardship efforts, updates on scientific developments, new technologies, available alternatives , and PFC-related events. Although the portal will be managed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretariat, OECD and non-OECD countries and stakeholders are encouraged to participate and share information.
A distinction is made between long-chain perfluorinated compounds (LC PFCs) and short-chain perfluorinated compounds (SC PFCs), based on the toxicity and bioaccumulation differences between LC PFCs and SC PFCs.
“Long-chain perfluorinated compounds” refers to:
- Perfluorocarboxylic acids with carbon chain lengths C8 and higher, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA);
- Perfluoroalkyl sulfonates with carbon chain lengths C6 and higher, including perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS); and
- Precursors of these substances that may be produced or present in products.
For definition purposes “precursor” means a substance that has been recognized as having the potential to degrade to perfluorocarboxylic acids with a carbon chain length of C8 and higher (including PFOA) or perfluoroalkyl sulfonates with a carbon chain length of C6 of higher (including PFHxS and PFOS).
Introduction to Perfluorinated Chemicals, Resolution, OECD and SAICM
In May 2009, the second session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2) adopted Resolution II/5 for the management of PFCs and transition to safer alternatives. The resolution invites governments, international organisations, and other stakeholders to consider the development, facilitation and promotion in an open, transparent and inclusive manner of national and international stewardship programmes and regulatory approaches to reduce emissions and the content of relevant perfluorinated chemicals of concern in products and to work toward global elimination, where appropriate and technically feasible. This web portal is one of the OECD’s contributions to implement the ICCM2 Resolution II/5.
SAICM stakeholders working on PFCs stewardship programs are encouraged to submit a report on progress at the SAICM Open-Ended Working group (OEWG) in 2011 and to the third session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) in 2010.
The OECD activities related to PFCs build upon the 2006 OECD Workshop on Perfluorocarboxylic Acids and Precursors and the current efforts to collect more reliable data of the production and use of PFCs, including information from producers on environmental releases of targeted substances from manufacturing and the content of targeted substances in products. The OECD has conducted three surveys on production and releases of PFCs, with the next survey scheduled for 2011. The 2006 OECD workshop on PFCAs and precursors, concluded with a series of recommendations, including an information clearing house, areas where governments and industry could work towards risk reduction programmes, sharing information on effective technologies to reduce environmental releases and providing information on the chemical content of articles, among others.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
In February 2009, UNEP, in cooperation with United States, hosted an International Workshop on Managing PFCs and Transitioning to Safer Alternatives. The outcomes of the Workshop were adopted for consideration by the Conference at ICCM2.
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm POPs) and Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)
Some PFCs have been restricted in the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and other countries. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and related chemical products have been nominated for inclusion in POPs and LRTAP protocols. At the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Stockholm Convention on POPs, held in May 2009, delegates agreed to add PFOS, its salts, and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF) to Annex B, subjecting it to restrictions on production and use. Parties agreed that while the ultimate goal is the elimination of PFOS, production of the chemical may continue for limited purposes, including coatings for semiconductors, firefighting foam, photo imaging, aviation hydraulic fluids, metal plating, and certain medical devices. Countries must notify the Convention Secretariat whether they intend to continue production for acceptable purposes. Countries can also ask for specific exemptions allowing the production of PFOS for use in the production of chemical substances.
Background on Perfluorinated Chemicals
Summary of concerns with long-chain perfluorinated chemicals (LCPFCs)
The worldwide presence of LCPFCs, which include PFOS and PFOA, combined with their persistence, toxicity, and bioaccumulative potential, makes these chemicals a particular concern.
PFOS and PFOA are persistent, are widely present in humans and the environment, have long half0lives in humans, and can cause adverse effects in laboratory animals, including cancer and developmental and systematic toxicity. PFOS and PFOA precursors, chemicals which degrade or may degrade to PFOS and/or PFOA, are also present worldwide in humans and environment and, in some cases, might be present at higher concentrations than PFOS and PFOA and be more toxic. PFC higher homologues (HHs) are chemicals with carbon chain lengths longer than PFOA and PFOS, and available evidence suggests that toxicity and bioaccumulation appear to increase with increasing carbon chain length.
Development of alternatives
Developing substitute materials to replace LCPFCs, or new processes to eliminate their presence as impurities in other products, has been a significant technical challenge. Nevertheless, there has been considerable progress in the development and introduction of substitutes and alternatives. Many substitutes are shorter-chain compounds that still provide the needed functionality, but lack the toxicity and bioaccumulation potential of the LCPFCs.
As some companies and countries start phasing out LCPFCs, many of which have potential for long-range transport, they may continue to be manufactured in other countries by other companies. To mitigate and sufficiently address the risks posed by this emerging policy issue and these chemicals, cooperative action by means of appropriate mechanisms to facilitate reductions of LCPFCs and development of safer alternatives is warranted. By working together, countries can achieve significant reductions in exposure to LCPFCs internationally.
Definitions of commonly used terms are available here.
The OECD has published lists of PFOS, PFAS, PFOA, PFCA, related compounds and chemicals that may degrade to PFCA to assist further surveys of the production and use of these substances.
Perfluorinated Chemicals Basic Fact Sheet
Submission of Information to this Portal
Any stakeholder can submit information to be disseminated via this Portal to OECD (contact us), Priority will be given to high quality information facilitating the management of PFCs and the transition to safer alternatives. Ultimate decisions on whether to disseminate information via the Portal will be taken by the OECD PFC Steering Group, comprising experts from governments, industry and NGOs.