Search
Close this search box.

PFAS STRATEGIC ROADMAP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a proactive stance on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). On October 18, 2021, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. This roadmap outlines a whole-of-agency approach to addressing PFAS, setting a timeline for specific actions, and committing to new policies to safeguard public health, protect the environment, and hold polluters accountable. 

 

Updates

April 2024 – The EPA designates two PFAS substances – PFOA and PFOS as superfund materials under CERLA with their derivatives under study. While these are chemically and biologically opposite to the TFE class of PFAS used by the electrical industry (electrical PFAS), there is reporting requirement on commerce of essentially all PFAS substances to EPA by May 8, 2025. 

 

What are PFAS Chemicals and why are they used in the plastics industry?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. Their widespread use has led to their presence in many consumer products, including cookware, food packaging, and stain repellants. PFAS are often called “everywhere chemicals” due to their ubiquity in everyday items. PFAS chemicals have unique properties that make them ideal for use in plastic materials such as PTFE, PFA, FEP, and PVF, to name a few. The TFE class (PTFE, PFA, and FEP) are popular materials for the electrical industry due to their properties described below, known as electrical PFAS. 

Water and Oil Repellency: One of the key properties of PFAS is their strong carbon-fluorine bonds, which make them hydrophobic (water-repellent) and resistant to oil. These unique characteristics are highly desirable for creating waterproof, stain-resistant, and non-stick surfaces. When incorporated into plastics, PFAS enhance their ability to repel water and oils, making them ideal for applications like food packaging and waterproof clothing. 

Heat and Corrosion Resistance: Some PFAS remain stable even at extreme temperatures. This characteristic makes them valuable for heat and corrosion-resistant applications, such as non-stick cooking surfaces and industrial lubricants. When blended with plastics, PFAS contributes to the durability and resilience of the material under high temperatures. 

Industrial and Commercial Uses: The practical applications of these chemicals are vast. They remain chemically inert when exposed to a wide range of industrial chemicals and solvents, making them invaluable in various industries. Plastics, for instance, benefit from these properties when PFAS is added during manufacturing, enhancing their performance and durability. Examples of their use include furniture, adhesives, and electrical wire insulation. 

Durability and Longevity: Due to its robust molecular structure, low surface energy and coefficient of friction, and chemical stability, some TFE classes of PFAS materials, such as PTFE, exhibit excellent durability. They can withstand wear, abrasion, and impact, making them suitable for long-lasting components like bearings, gears, and rotating equipment. 

 

 

What are some challenges and concerns when using PFAS materials? 

While PFAS enhance plastic performance, their widespread use has raised environmental and health concerns. These compounds contain a carbon-fluorine solid bond, which allows them to accumulate over time in the environment and the bodies of animals and people.  Scientific studies link some PFAS to harmful health effects. Despite ongoing research, critical questions remain unanswered, including efficient detection methods, exposure levels, and health impacts. PFOS and PFOA are examples of particularly harmful chemicals. 

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS): Widely used in industrial processes, firefighting foams, and consumer products, PFOS is a persistent organic pollutant. It resists breaking down naturally and can contaminate soil and water sources. Exposure to PFOS has been linked to health issues, including weakened immunity and altered gene activity. 

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA): Another problematic PFAS, PFOA, was commonly used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and food packaging. It has been associated with cancer risk, excessive cell growth, and endocrine disruption. Although restricted under various laws, its persistence makes it a concern. 

Are all PFAS materials an equal health risk, and should I be concerned about the availability of plastics like PTFE? 

There is a significant disparity between PFAS chemicals and the expected usage restrictions of each type. PFOA and PFOS have been declared “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environment Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLA). TFE materials such as PTFE are not included in this legislation. PFAS materials in the electrical, automotive, and aerospace industries fall into the TFE (Tetrafluoroethylene) class. They have shorter monomer carbon chains, such as fluoroethylene and fluoropropylene. They are more chemically and biologically inert, entirely hydrophobic and water-insoluble, and not likely to be absorbed by the human body. PTFE, FEP, and PFA of the TFE class are commonly used in these industries for their insulation and other desirable properties.  

A total ban or even the threat of a total ban on all PFAS will lead to unprecedented supply chain interruption in the entire industry.  

Even if the EPA differentiates TFE classes from PFOA and PFOS, some manufacturers, such as 3M, Saint Gobain, and Textech, have already exited the market and/or stopped production in the US due to the publicity about PFAS in the mass media and the complex EPA reporting requirements. 

However, because TFE materials do not pose as significant health risks as PFOA and PFOS, banning them would substantially interrupt the supply of electrical components across all industries. Efforts to exclude them from the same scrutiny are underway. 

Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of PFAS materials and the EPA’s regulations regarding them. The Gund Company will update this page as new information becomes available. 

Do alternatives to PTFE and other TFE materials exist? 

The application ultimately decides if an alternative will be acceptable, but there are many thermoplastic options available. To determine what thermoplastic material may be most suitable, The Gund Company has application engineers and material experts to ensure our customers are knowledgeable of material options. 

Please view our material selection tool for more information on thermoplastic materials and property considerations.

 The Gund Company chart below shows a few material options similar to the most commonly used TFE materials. Using any of these options would fall entirely out of PFAS’s scope. 

 PTFE, FEP, PFAUHMWPPSPEEKPEI (ULTEM)PAI & PI (VESPEL)
Heat Resistance, Melting Point, °C330 °C PTFE, 270C FEP and PFA130 °C280 °C340 °C340 to 360 °C375 to 400 °C
Low Friction (COF)0.05 to 0.100.140.28 to 0.350.35 to 0.4~0.40.1 to 0.15
Dimensional Stability, MachinabilityNot as good as othersComparable to PTFEGoodGoodGoodGood
Overall Mechanical Properties, not ReinforcedGood for ThermoplasticBetterBetter but BrittleBetterBetter but being amorphous not as good as PEEKBetter
Wear ResistanceGood for ThermoplasticBetterBetterBetterBetterBetter
Overall Electrical PropertiesExcellent, especially with Dk, DfVery GoodGoodGoodGoodGood
Flame Retardancy without FR AdditiveVery Good V0Not as Good, HBVery Good, V0Very Good, V0Very Good, V0Very Good, V0
Water and Fluid Repellency, Surface Energy Without Etching in dynes,cmExcellent, ~20Very Good, ~30Good, ~38Good, ~35Fair, ~40Fair, ~40
Chemical ResistanceExcellentGoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
Weather ResistanceExcellentGoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
Cost$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

$$$$$1/2

$$$$$

Do resources exist to help determine the right material? 

If an alternative material is desired, The Gund Company has application engineers and material experts to ensure our customers are knowledgeble of the material options.