EU PFAS Ban Should Raise U.S. Corporate Concerns

Feb 9, 2023 | Environmental, PFAS, Toxic Tort

On February 7, 2023, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) unveiled a 200 page proposal that would ban the use of any PFAS in the EU. While the proposal was anticipated by many, the scope of the ban nonetheless drew reactions from a myriad of sectors – from environmentalists to scientists to corporations. U.S. based companies that have any industrial or business interests in the EU must absolutely pay close attention to the EU PFAS ban and consider the impact on business interests.

EU PFAS Ban Proposal

The EU PFAS ban currently proposed would take effect 18 months from the date of enactment; however, the ECHA is contemplating phased-in restrictions of up to 12 years for uses that the group considers challenging to replace in certain applications. The proposal is only the inception of the ECHA regulatory process, which next turns to a public comment period that opens on March 22, 2023 and will run for at least six months. ECHA’s scientific committees to review the proposal and provide feedback. Given the magnitude of comments expected and the likely hurdles that the ECHA will face in finalizing the proposal, it is not expected that the proposal would be finalized prior to 2025.

The EU PFAS ban seeks to prohibit the use of over 10,000 PFAS types, excluding only a sub-class of PFAS that have been deemed “fully degradable.” The proposal indicates: “…the restriction proposal is tailored to address the manufacture, placing on the market, as well as the use of PFASs as such and as constituents in other substances, in mixtures and in articles above a certain concentration. All uses of PFASs are covered by this restriction proposal, regardless of whether they have been specifically assessed by the Dossier Submitters and/or are mentioned in this report or not, unless a specific derogation has been formulated.” (emphasis added) Several specific types of uses and consumer product applicability would be included in the first phase of the proposed ban, including cosmetics, food packaging, clothing and cookware. This first phase of the ban implementation would include uses where alternatives are known, but not yet widely available, which is the reason why the first phase would take effect within 5 years. The second phase of the ban anticipates a 12 year period of time for ban implementation and encompasses uses where alternatives to PFAS are not currently known. Significantly for U.S. business, the proposed ban includes imported goods.

Impact On U.S. Companies

In 2022, U.S. companies exported just shy of $350 billion in goods to the EU. In many instances, companies do not deliberately, intentionally, or knowingly add or utilize PFAS in finished products that are sent to the EU. However, PFAS may be used in manufacturing processes that inadvertently contaminate goods with PFAS. In addition, many U.S. companies rely on overseas companies for supply chain sourcing. Quite commonly, supply chain sources outside of the U.S. do not voluntarily provide chemical composition information for components or goods that they supply. Inquiring of those companies for such information, or certifications that the good contain no PFAS, can be extremely difficult. Getting overseas companies to provide such information often proves impossible and even when certifications are made, the devil may be in the details in terms of what is actually being certified. For example, certifying that goods contain “no hazardous substances” or “no hazardous PFAS” sound reassuring, but by what measure of “hazardous” is the statement being made? Under what country’s regulations? Using which scientific definition? The result of all of these complexities may be that many U.S. based companies need to test their products themselves, which not only increases time to market issues and financial costs associated with production, but also risks to the companies doing business in the U.S. that they may open themselves up to environmental pollution or personal injury lawsuits by conducting such testing. In addition, alternatives may not be as cost effective as PFAS, which impacts businesses and has the potential trickle-down impact of passing some of the costs on to consumers.

While debate continues in the U.S. as to the scientific validity of the “whole class” approach to regulating PFAS (of which there are over 12,000 types according to the EPA), the EU PFAS ban leapfrogs the U.S. debate stage and goes directly to proposing a regulation that would embrace such a “whole class” regulatory scheme. Without a doubt, chemical manufacturers, industrial and manufacturing companies, and some in the science community are expected to strenuously oppose such an approach to regulations for PFAS. The underlying arguments will follow ones advanced and debated already in the U.S. – i.e., not all chemicals act identically, nor have the vast majority of PFAS been shown to date to present health concerns. Proper scientific method does not permit sweeping attributions of testing on legacy PFAS like PFOA and PFOS to be extrapolated and applied to all PFAS. The EU’s response to this via their proposal is that the costs of remediating PFAS from the environment are significant enough that it warrants regulating PFAS as a class to avoid costly, decades-long, and potentially repetitive remediation work in the EU.


It is of the utmost importance for businesses to evaluate their PFAS risk. Public health and environmental groups urge legislators to regulate these compounds in the U.S. and abroad. One major point of contention among members of various industries is whether to regulate PFAS as a class or as individual compounds.  While each PFAS compound has a unique chemical makeup and impacts the environment and the human body in different ways, some groups argue PFAS should be regulated together as a class because they interact with each other in the body, thereby resulting in a collective impact. Other groups argue that the individual compounds are too diverse and that regulating them as a class would be over restrictive for some chemicals and not restrictive enough for others.

Companies should remain informed so they do not get caught off guard. States are increasingly passing PFAS product bills that differ in scope. For any manufacturers, especially those who sell goods overseas, it is important to understand how the various standards among countries will impact them, whether PFAS is regulated as individual compounds or as a class. Conducting regular self-audits for possible exposure to PFAS risk and potential regulatory violations can result in long term savings for companies and should be commonplace in their own risk assessment.

CMBG3 Law is following judicial, legislative, administrative, and scientific developments relating to PFAS. More information about the services we can provide, including risk assessments, to ensure your business is ready for any intersection with these substances can be found on our PFAS Litigation page.

Our attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS issues, including giving presentations as to the future waves of litigation stemming from PFAS issues. For more information, please contact the Chair of our PFAS Team, John Gardella.


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