What are PFAS?
PFAS is a generic term encompassing a wide range of organic fluorine compounds, theoretically between 4,700 and 10,000 substances ¹ ². Only a fraction of these are used commercially ³.
There are several, broadly similar, definitions, but AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. has adopted the definition defined by the Organisation For Economic Development (OECD):
“Fluorinated substances that contain at least one fully fluorinated methyl or methylene carbon atom (without any H/Cl/Br/I atom attached to it), i.e. with a few noted exceptions, any chemical with at least a perfluorinated methyl group (–CF3) or a perfluorinated methylene group (–CF2–) is a PFAS” ⁴
Further information about the wide range of PFAS that exist is available from the FPP4EU Website.
Concerns have been raised about PFAS, in particular;
- Since PFAS resist degradation due to the carbon-fluorine bond it helps create, this may also lead to persistence in the environment. It is their durability and resistance to chemicals, high temperatures or abrasion which makes PFAS important in modern society applications
- Some PFAS are easily transported within the environment and have been detected in groundwater, surface water and soils
- Some PFAS have potential negative health impacts
However, PFAS is a very large group of chemicals and not all PFAS have the same properties and impacts.
AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. Products and PFAS
At our UK manufacturing facility, AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd., we undertake a responsible manufacturing approach to produce the fluoropolymers PTFE and ETFE, which are polymeric PFAS. These types of polymeric PFAS have been shown to meet the OECD criteria⁵ ⁶ for polymers of low concern.
The fluoropolymers manufactured at our UK site have unique properties which cannot be replicated by other compounds, making them essential for critical applications across the UK, European and global markets that contribute to sustainability including, but not limited to, use in renewable and alternative energies, electric vehicles, and medical applications.
Further information about fluoropolymers, their applications and importance is available from Plastics Europe – Fluoropolymers Group.
Additional information about the applications of materials manufactured at our UK site can be found here.
From our UK and European sales offices we sell materials manufactured by AGC Chemicals Company facilities based around the world (including our UK manufacturing facility), to UK and European industries. Many of these products are fluoropolymers and other critical chemicals that meet the definition of PFAS.
Further information about these products can be found here.
Use of PFAS In the Manufacture of Fluoropolymers
Within our UK manufacturing processes, a limited number of PFAS are used to ensure the quality and performance of our final ETFE and PTFE products. These create unique properties which cannot be replicated by other compounds, making them essential for critical applications across the UK, European and global markets that contribute to sustainability including, but not limited to, use in renewable and alternative energies, electric vehicles, and medical applications.
During production of our fluoropolymers some impurities are generated, and these include a small quantity of non-polymeric PFAS. Both these PFAS impurities and the non-polymeric PFAS we use in our manufacturing processes are removed from the final product to meet our high quality requirements. The PFAS impurities and the non-polymeric PFAS are removed using recovery/treatment and/or capture processes. The use of PFAS in our manufacturing and emissions are in accordance with our Responsible Manufacturing approach and in full compliance with UK and EU regulations.
Responsible Manufacturing at AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd.
AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. sets the highest standards for itself as a responsible member of the local community and a sustainable business. We have adopted a Responsible Manufacturing approach and the management of substances used in and emitted from our manufacturing process is of utmost importance to us.
In relation to PFAS, AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. has been actively involved in development of and is a signatory to the Fluoropolymers Product Group Manufacturing Programme for European Manufacturing sites⁷ .
This is voluntary commitment aimed at reducing PFAS emissions, and it sets specific targets for all signatories to reach by the end of 2024, and the end of 2030.
Other examples of our approach include;
- Over 15 years of continued certification by independent external auditors of the AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. Manufacturing Process to the International Environmental Management System Standard ISO14001.
- Continuation of Ecological Monitoring of the River Wyre Estuary, providing a dataset which currently spans over 40 years . This concludes the Hillhouse industrial complex’s effluent discharge is not having a significant effect on the SPA (Special Protection Area), MCZ (Marine Conservation Zone), SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) or other protected habitats or species within the Wyre estuary.
- Investment and commitment to continued emissions reduction across the organisation in all areas, not just PFAS.
- Continued investment and development of advanced analytical capabilities for PFAS both within the AGC Group and independent laboratories.
- Signatory to FPG Responsible Manufacturing Principles in 2021.
- Voluntary phase out of the use of PFOA as an additive to the manufacturing process under a global US EPA Stewardship Agreement⁸ in 2012, before its inclusion in the Stockholm Convention.
- Ensuring detailed assessment of PFAS used on site in accordance with REACH requirements.
AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. Engagement With Stakeholders
AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. as part of its Responsible Manufacturing approach is engaging with stakeholders to better understand concerns, provide education, learn and ensure we continue to act responsibly.
Examples of AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. work with Stakeholders, includes but is not limited to;
- Provision of data to the Environment Agency to support the EA evaluations of PFAS used in the AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. manufacturing process.
- Site meetings and tours with Environment Agency to aid understanding of our process.
- Active Member of the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) PFAS Chemical Stakeholder Forum Working Group.
- Provision of data to the Environment Agency & Health and Safety Executive to support development of the UK RMOA for PFAS.⁹
- Engagement of local MP and local authority.
- Engagement of customers and suppliers.
- Active Member of Trade Associations.
- Apprenticeship schemes and work experience placements.
The following sources of information provide more details on PFAS in and general and those used by AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd., this section will be periodically updated:
Evaluation of AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. PFAS
Environmental risk evaluation report: Hexafluoropropene [HFP] (CAS no. 116-15-4)
Environmental risk evaluation report: Trideca-1,1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5,6,6-fluorohexane [1H-PFHx] (CAS no. 355-37-3)
Environmental risk evaluation report: 1,1,1,2,2,3,3-Heptafluoro-3-[(trifluorovinyl)oxy]propane [PPVE] (CAS no. 1623-05-8)
Environmental risk evaluation report: 3,3,4,4,5,5,6,6,6-Nonafluorohexene [Perfluorobutylethylene; PFBE] (CAS no. 19430-93-4)
Environmental risk evaluation report: Perfluoro(2-ethoxy-2-fluoroethoxy)-acetic acid, ammonium salt EEA-NH4] (CAS no. 908020-52-0)
AGC have committed voluntarily to responsible manufacturing principles in term of continuously improve and/or develop best available techniques in the manufacturing process, management of environmental emissions, development of R&D programs for the advancement of technologies allowing for the replacement of PFAS-based polymerisation aids, and/or the increase recyclability and reuse of its products in line with the objectives of circular economy. The principles are listed in ANNEX IV – Fluoropolymer Products Group (FPG) Members’ Responsible Manufacturing Commitment. Fluoropolymers Product Group – RMOA September 2021
AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd. as a member of the FPG has been directly involved in the creation of, and are signatories to, the industry Manufacturing Programme for European Manufacturing sites. This is a voluntary commitment aimed at reducing PFAS emissions, and it sets specific targets for all signatories to reach by the end of next year, and the end of 2030. The programme is aligned with existing business objectives of AGC Chemicals Europe, Ltd.
ISO Management Systems
⁴ 1. OECD, 2021. Reconciling Terminology of the Universe of Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances: Recommendations and Practical Guidance. ENV/CBC/MONO(2021)25 / JT03479350. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
⁵ Henry B. J., Carlin P. J., Hammerschmidt J. A., Buck, R. C., Buxton W., Fiedler H., Seed J., Hernandez O. (2018). A Critical Review of the Application of Polymer of Low Concern and Regulatory Criteria to Fluoropolymers, Integr Environ Assess Manag2018:316–334
⁶ Korzeniowski S.H., Buck, R. C., Newkold R. M., El kassmi A., Laganis E., Matsuoka Y., Dinelli B., Beauchet S., Adamsky F., Weilandt K. ,Soni V., Kapoor D., Gunasekar P., Malvasi M., Brinati G., Musio S. (2022). A critical review of the application of polymer of low concern regulatory criteria to fluoropolymers II: Fluoroplastics and fluoroelastomers, Integr Environ Assess Manag2022:1-30 https://setac.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/ieam.4646