PFAS In Consumer Products: False Positives Mean Compliance Wrinkle

Feb 3, 2022 | Environmental, PFAS, Toxic Tort

A study published in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry on January 11, 2022 detailed how current methods of testing for certain volatile PFAS may be resulting in abnormally high false positives. The article, Mass-Labeled Flourotelomer Alcohol Fragmentation Gives ‘False Positive’ For Nonlabeled Fluorotelomer Alcohols with Implications for Consumer Product Analysis (J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2022, 33, 2, 399–403), explains how using certain methods to test consumer products for PFAS may result in false positive readings. While technical in nature, the article provides critical information for companies with concerns about current or legacy use of PFAS in consumer products. Failing to properly account for this recent study in compliance programs could have consequences in the future when PFAS products liability litigation develops.

Published Journal Findings

Three researchers from the University of Oregon found the following:

“PFAS are commonly analyzed by gas chromatography–chemical ionization–mass spectrometry. Mass-labeled standards are used for quantitative analysis of volatile PFAS and to ensure quality control. However, mass-labeled fluorotelomer alcohol (FTOH) analyzed in positive chemical ionization produces signals corresponding to nonlabeled (native) FTOH ions, resulting in false positives….False positives for native (nonlabeled) FTOHs caused by the introduction of a mass-labeled surrogate can be controlled by blank subtracting or decreasing mass-labeled standard concentrations. Alternatively, different mass-labeled standards can also be used in sample analysis.”

In short, current testing methods for PFAS in consumer products may be resulting in abnormally high false positives for companies using these methods to determine future risks for their products.

PFAS In Consumer Products – Risks To Businesses

As public interest, legislation, and science related to PFAS increase daily, so, too, does company concern over current or legacy uses of PFAS in consumer products that they make or distribute. While the PFAS products liability litigation is in its infancy, we have predicted for some time that the current environment and steps being taken at the regulatory level are a harbinger for a tidal wave of future products liability lawsuits. Companies should therefore take action now with respect to due diligence and compliance programs to understand the scope of the risks from current or past practices. Part and parcel of this process is potentially testing products to determine the scope of PFAS content in a finished consumer good.

Companies with current or legacy uses of PFAS must understand that compliance programs absolutely must take into consideration all avenues of risk from current or past use of PFAS chemicals. Failing to do so could result in considerable financial disruption that could have been avoided with careful planning.

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 – Toxic Torts Team: John Gardella.


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