Worldwide, the behaviour of PFOS, PFOA and other perfluorinated chemicals has been closely monitored for quite some time and environmental effects are being investigated.This has led to several international developments and international policy.

United States and Canada

The largest producer of PFOS was 3M, a US company with manufacturing facilities in the United States and Belgium.PFOS was produced in the period from 1949 to 2002. Since the 70s the possible health effects due to occupational exposure to PFOS and PFOA have been monitored.

In 1993 concentrations of PFOA in the blood of both employees of a PFOA plant and the population of the region led to a scientific study into a possible link between the concentration in the blood and mortality rates.The first scientific publication showing the presence of PFOS and PFOA in the global environment dates back to 2001. In consultation with the EPA 3M's production of PFOS completely phased out in the period 2000-2002.

The EPA has also established contacts with other chemical companies and foreign governments.The goal was to phase out the production of PFOS and PFOS-related chemicals voluntarily.In practice, this has led to an agreement between the EPA and eight leading global companies focused on the emission and eventually eliminating PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals by 2015.

In 2006 Canada decided to include PFOS and PFOS derivatives in their environmental legislation, Schedule 1 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (lit. 101).PFOA and PFOA derivatives are scheduled to be included in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

European Union

Within the European Union PFOS is considered persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT).Since December 2006, the use of PFOS (and PFOS derivatives) for most applications has been severely limited.

PFOS may still be used in products in the following five cases:

  • in certain photolithography processes (for the production of chips)
  • photographic coatings applied to films, papers, or printing plates
  • mist suppressants in the electroplating industry
  • hydraulic fluids for aviation
  • fire-fighting foams (allowed until June 27, 2011).

The use of PFOS in these five applications will be phased out as soon as safer alternatives are technically and economically feasible.

PFOA and its salts are likely to have a similar risk profile as PFOS.This is why the European Union is closely following the on-going risk assessment activities and the availability of safer alternatives.When safer alternatives become available, the marketing and use of PFOA will be restricted.

In the Netherlands since June 22, 2009, these limitations are regulated via the REACH Regulation (Registration,Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).In 2010 PFOS was included in the revised version of the European POP Regulation.As a result, the inclusion was left out of the REACH Regulation in the course of 2011.

On April 17, 2013 PFOS and PFOS-related substances were listed as a priority substance in the Water Framework Directive. In 2027 Member States will have to meet the standards derived for these substances.

Stockholm Convention

In 2002 The Netherlands became a party to the Stockholm Convention.This Convention entered into force on 17 May 2004.It has defined a binding global ban on the production of and trade in twelve POPs.

POP stands for Persistent Organic Pollutants.These are toxic, poorly degradable and may also be spread over a long distance through the air and / or water.POPs are harmful to the environment and health as they accumulate in organisms.This may lead to health effects such as cancer, reproduction damage and impairment of the immune system.

In 2009 the Fourth Conference of Parties (COP 4, May 2009) agreed to add nine new substances to the Stockholm Convention, including PFOS and PFOS derivatives.

Based on the Stockholm Convention, a National Implementation Plan (NIP) and a National Action Plan (NAP) have to be devised, including a review of the national situation and the measures that have been taken and will be taken to comply with the Treaty.

The Dutch Implementation Plan indicates that due to the persistent properties the chances are very high that many POPs will still be found in soil and water. It also indicates that POPs may be released again from contaminated compartments and contribute to a certain degree of human exposure through water, soil and food.

This means that the production, use, (re) sale and import of PFOS and PFOS-containing products is prohibited. Canada has made exceptions similar to those of the European Union.

As far as is known, there have never been any production sites of PFOS in the Netherlands.However the Netherlands have imported PFOS for a long time for various industrial uses.Also PFOA has been polymerized in the Netherlands.Environmental standards for PFOS in fresh water, drinking water and sea water have been proposed but they have not yet been officially established.