Monday, April 15, 2024

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The Prohibition of PTFE: The Unseen Expenses for Consumers and Job Losses


The EU’s Green Deal package includes the 2020 Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, which aims to create a toxic-free environment by 2030. One of the key goals of this strategy is to implement a universal restriction on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are known as “forever chemicals” and have been linked to contamination and harmful emissions.

Action to tackle this family of chemicals is overdue, and European industry is ready to do its part. As the president of the Federation of the European Cookware, Cutlery and Houseware Industries (FEC), I welcome the initiative. FEC members pride themselves on providing safe and durable products to consumers, and were early to phase out these problematic substances. Despite this, the current restriction proposal still needs substantial changes to achieve its goals of protecting human health and the environment while balancing socioeconomic effects, impacts on carbon emissions and circularity.

Although some aspects of the proposed limitation are reasonable, there is a possibility that they could harm the EU’s industrial competitiveness and impede advancements in sustainability and technology, while also prohibiting substances that are deemed safe. It is important for the European authorities to fully comprehend the potential consequences of this proposal before making any decisions that could negatively affect consumers and the European labor force, potentially leading to unfavorable environmental outcomes.

The current proposed restrictions require significant revisions in order to effectively safeguard human health and the environment, while also considering the impact on socioeconomic factors.

It is crucial for the institutions to not take any shortcuts and thoroughly comprehend the unforeseen environmental and socioeconomic consequences on all industries, as this is the most extensive and intricate chemical regulation in EU history.

The suggested limitation on PFAS substances is extensive, encompassing more than 10,000 chemicals, including some that were not previously categorized as PFAS. This broad approach aims to identify any potentially harmful chemicals that may be used in the future, but it also includes substances that do not pose a risk. The OECD, which provided the definition utilized by the proposing countries, acknowledges that it was not intended for creating a list of regulated chemicals.

The proposal not only covers the harmful PFAS substances that are a threat to both human health and the environment, but also includes fluoropolymers. These substances are not easily spread in the environment, are not poisonous, and do not accumulate in organisms. This is in direct contrast to the highly debated PFAS substances that have caused contamination issues in Europe and worldwide.

It is crucial for the institutions to avoid any shortcuts as the EU implements its most comprehensive and extensive chemical restriction to date.

Fluoropolymers are well studied, with ample scientific evidence demonstrating their safety, and unlike legacy PFAS, technologies exist to control and eliminate any emissions of substances of concern from manufacturing to disposal.

Fluoropolymers are not only safe, their safety is a primary reason for their widespread use. They provide critical functionality in sensitive applications like medical devices, semiconductors and renewable energy technology. They are also used in products we all use in our day-to-day lives, from non-stick cookware to electrical appliances to cars. While in some cases there are alternatives to fluoropolymers, these replacements are often inferior, more expensive, or have even more environmental impact in the long run. Where alternatives aren’t yet identified, companies will need to spend large sums to identify replacements.

In the field of cookware, fluoropolymers are widely used to create long-lasting, secure, and efficient non-stick coatings for pots, pans, and cooking appliances used by billions of individuals in Europe and worldwide. Extensive studies and advancements demonstrate that these products are not only safe, but also offer the most effective, long-lasting, and economical solution. Ongoing research and development of these products is a key factor in the European cookware industry’s reputation as a global frontrunner.

Fluoropolymers are well studied, with ample scientific evidence demonstrating their safety and … technologies exist to control and eliminate any emissions of substances of concern from manufacturing to disposal.

The use of fluoropolymers is crucial in various products and technologies. Imposing a search for lesser quality or non-existent substitutes will negatively impact the EU’s ability to compete and maintain strategic independence. In the cookware industry alone, this restriction could lead to a loss of 14,800 jobs in Europe and a decrease of up to €500 million in the sector’s contribution to the GDP. This could also result in a significant relocation of production from Europe to Asia, where environmental regulations are less strict. Consumers will also be affected, as alternative products will be more expensive and less durable, leading to higher replacement rates and a larger environmental impact.

Moreover, businesses that support the shift towards sustainability, provide essential medical remedies, and guarantee the effectiveness and strength of our technology will face the burden of costly and potentially futile endeavors to substitute fluoropolymers with alternative materials. What would be the advantage of incurring these expenses and unintentional effects, when fluoropolymers have already been proven to be safe throughout their entire lifespan?

Due to the significant importance of fluoropolymers in various products and technologies, any attempt to find inferior or non-existent substitutes will negatively impact the EU’s competitiveness and strategic independence.

The limitation on PFAS is at a level never seen before, but there may also be unforeseen consequences. Companies have provided extensive proof to help clarify the gaps in the initial proposal, and it is now the responsibility of institutions to consider this evidence. With such a widespread effort, it is crucial for the EU institutions and member countries to carefully assess the effects and ensure that the final restriction is reasonable, supports European competitiveness, and does not hinder the overall strategic goals for the future.

Established in 1952, FEC (Federation of the European Cookware, Cutlery and Housewares Industries) is a powerful alliance consisting of 40 global companies, prominent national associations, and essential suppliers throughout Europe, such as Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Our goal is to encourage collaboration among our members and offer guidance and assistance on matters related to economics and technology.