The European Chemicals Agency ECHA has its headquarters in the Finnish capital Helsinki and decides on possible PFAS restrictions. Source: Wikimedia / Vadelmavene
The planned EU project to impose a blanket ban on the use of the entire PFAS group of substances endangers numerous industrial processes. This also includes the production and trade of industrial valves. A few days before the end of the public consultation, the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) warns again of the consequences.
PFAS are used in important key industries: from supplies of urgently needed gases to the production of Corona vaccines and the pasteurisation of milk. Valves safeguard essential areas in industry and also in the everyday lives of people in Germany and Europe.
“Without PFAS, industrial valves would no longer be usable in their sales sectors of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, in power plant construction or in the current growth market of hydrogen, which would not only put the brakes on the energy turnaround”, says Axel Weidner, shareholder of Mankenberg GmbH and Chairman of the German Valve Association. “Without them, safe processes in the aforementioned system-relevant key industries are also not possible.”
VDMA calls for exceptions
In order to protect the interests of the industry, the VDMA Valves Association has drafted a statement for the industrial valves sector on the PFAS restriction project. This shows why an unreflective general ban on PFAS - i.e. also on those substances with a low hazard potential in industrial valves - would cause serious damage to the industry.
In its statement, the association demands the general exemption of fluoropolymers from the planned PFAS general ban. Fluoropolymers are high-performance plastics that are characterised by particularly high resistance. They have a sealing, water-repellent and friction-reducing effect and prevent the adhesion of substances.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are not used directly in the production of fittings, but seals, membranes, linings and many other parts contain PFAS. However, these PFAS substances do not come into contact with the environment and, as fluoropolymers, have a low hazard potential in the use phase.
For industry, they are currently indispensable, because it is only through the use of PFAS substances that fittings are protected against corrosion and failure, for example. They also ensure safety for people and the environment.
“Without PFAS, none of our products would work as things stand today. Even if alternatives were developed in the short term, we would need several years to renew all the necessary qualifications for all our products”, explains Dr Thomas Steckenreiter, CTO at SAMSON AG and board member of the VDMA Industrial Valves Division.
Statement also from the VDMA Building Fittings Association
The VDMA Valves Association has also drafted a statement on the PFAS restriction project for the building valves sector.
“As entrepreneurs, we see it as our duty to do everything possible within our sphere of influence to protect the environment and to act sustainably. Accordingly, we support the change away from the use of inappropriate substances towards contemporary, alternative substances”, emphasises Stefan Gesing, CEO of Dornbracht AG & Co. KG and chairman of the VDMA specialist department for building fittings.
“However, a blanket PFAS ban without available substance alternatives would, in extreme cases, deprive the companies concerned of their business basis. At the very least, it would put them at a considerable disadvantage compared to companies that produce outside Germany and the EU.”