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Latest PFAS-free Nano Coatings can substitute so-called 'forever chemicals' in specific use cases across more and more industries. Let's examine the issues surrounding PFAS and explore the latest alternatives that material sciences can offer.

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What's Covered

New to PFAS? Watch This!

PFAS on 'Last Week Tonight' with John Oliver

PFAS intro on a mainstream HBO comedy show. Mind the language!

Latest PFAS News
April 2024

What new EPA limits on 'forever chemicals' mean for U.S. drinking water

Essentially

The 5000 (some insiders say even 12000+) group of synthetic Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pose serious and well documented risks, yet transitioning away from these commonly known as "Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)" or "Forever Chemicals" has proved challenging for a long time.

With novel PFAS-free Nanocoatings, on the other hand, there is a new player on the horizon which shows potential to substitute PFAS-containing coatings in surprisingly many - and more and more - applications. And that's incredible news! Here's why.

What's PFAS Actually

Once hailed a miracle of modern chemistry, "PFAS" is an umbrella term for 5000+ man-made (synthetic, not naturally occurring) chemicals that have been widely produced and extensively used ↗︎ since the 1940s. Here's a breakdown of the key substances under the PFAS term, most of us will likely never heard of, highlighting the breadth of this chemical group:



PFAS have a chemistry that makes them resistant to heat, water and oil stains for a long time. As a result, they have been used in nonstick coatings on pans, stain-resistant treatments for furniture and carpets, water-repellent clothing, food packaging, firefighting foams, beauty products and in uncountable products and components in almost every industry.

PFAS are difficult to detect with our senses because they are colourless, odourless and tasteless. Even accurately detecting and quantifying PFAS in the environment, consumer products, or biological samples requires advanced technologies and methods, making it a specialised and often a costly endeavour. But they are all around us, present nearly everywhere. They can even contaminate drinking water sources and may be present in dust.

Products containing PFAS in our daily lives.
From dental floss to pizza boxes: Products containing PFAS in our daily lives.

The Problem with PFAS

Classified as 'persistent' by the Stockholm Convention in 2009, PFAS are chemicals that do not easily or readily break down. As a result, they are extremely mobile in the environment and have spread to even remote regions like the Arctic and Antarctic. They are deemed "forever chemicals" because they are stubbornly persistent and can build up in the human body, associating with a range of health effects.

PFAS contamination is a global public health threat requiring comprehensive action and solutions - check out this photo from Italy
The pressure is mounting on administrations worldwide to outlaw PFAS as a measure to safeguard their citizens. The challenge for businesses presently incorporating PFAS into their offerings lies in identifying suitable alternatives.

Regulators struggle to manage over 5,000 known PFAS compounds contaminating soil, water and organisms worldwide, demonstrating how pervasive these chemicals have become. How real this subject has become read, for example, ↗︎ U.S. Kale Contains Disturbing Amounts of Forever Chemicals from July 2023 published by the nonprofit Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), which found that 7 out of 8 kale samples taken from grocery stores in the U.S. contained concerning levels of PFAS. Or have a read through the Health and Environmental Alliance's ↗︎ How PFAS pollution affects people’s health across Europe to get a better idea of how far we've come with PFAS around us.

Although PFAS are widely used, only a small number of companies are responsible for most of the production.

For a deeper understanding of PFAS and its toxicity, specifically within the context of the United States, we highly recommend Terry Turner's comprehensive piece on PFAS-contaminated products and Mark Howell's exploration on water contamination due to PFAS. Both articles are accessible at ConsumerNotice.org, found ↗︎ here and ↗︎ here, respectively.

Le Monde's Forever Pollution Map showing PFAC contaminated sites in Europe
The Forever Pollution Map shows the extent of PFAS contamination across Europe. Created by ↗︎ Le Monde newspaper and 17 partners, the map plots over 21,000 known contamination sites identified during their investigation. Dots also mark 20 current PFAS producers and 232 facilities producing PFAS-containing products. The broad distribution illustrates how pervasive ‘forever chemicals’ have become in our environment.

Did You Know

US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has identified PFAS in over 98% of the human blood samples analysed way back in a 1999-2000 survey, highlighting their widespread presence - with little consequence since.

PFAS is present today in nearly every living being across every continent.

The Challenges in Addressing PFAS Pollution

The issue of PFAS pollution and its impacts represents one of the less publicly known or understood environmental and health dangers. Despite growing scientific recognition of the risks associated with PFAS, public awareness and regulatory response have been relatively slow to develop for several reasons:

PFAS sources in our daily lives.
PFAS is everywhere. The question today is: how to revere it? Image curtesy of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

PFAS Revenue:
€26 Billion

Societal Costs of PFAS:
€2,000 billion

That's Per Year. The Nordic Council of Ministers estimates that the direct healthcare costs from exposure to PFAS in Europe alone are €52-84 billion annually. Europe, because it has the data, has over 17,000 sites contaminated with PFAS. If we assume that the contamination in global soils is similar, remediation costs would be over €2000 billion. This does not include getting rid of PFAS in our waters yet.

Profits Over Health?
The PFAS Dilemma

The production and use of PFAS present a complex issue. A report by a Swedish non-profit organisation, ChemSec, which advocates for chemical safety, has shed light on the current situation. It identified the top 12 PFAS producers worldwide and highlighted the significant costs to society due to PFAS pollution.

In 2020, the global PFAS market was estimated to be around $28 billion, which may sound like much but was only 0.5% of the broader $4.73 trillion chemical industry. The annual profits for PFAS producers are estimated to be around $4 billion, indicating the high financial stakes involved for the few sharing the production market.

However, the handsome profits for some come at a cost for all. The financial and health costs associated with PFAS exposure are substantial. For example, a 2021 report by the Nordic Council of Ministers estimated that the total socio-economic costs of PFAS exposure in the European Economic Area could range from 0.8 billion to 2.8 billion euros - annually.

Similarly, a 2019 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives estimated the healthcare costs related to exposure to just one type of PFAS (PFOA) could be around 52 billion to 84 billion euros across Europe - over a 70-year period.

This situation highlights an imbalance between the economic benefits for few producers and the societal costs of PFAS. The industry's limited transparency and minimal discussion of PFAS in sustainability efforts further complicate the issue though regulation and legislation may soon be on its way despite considerable resistance.

The staggering facts against PFAS call for the urgent need for industries and consumers to find safer alternatives. PFAS-free nano coatings may well be option for many - right now.

PFAS Market Price:
€19 per kg

True Cost:
€18,374 per kg

The true cost is 1000 times higher if all societal costs are included - according to Swedish Non-Profit ChemSec.

Why Transitioning Away
from PFAS Now?

Beginning to replace PFAS voluntarily today not only addresses the growing environmental and health concerns associated with these chemicals but also aligns with broader trends towards sustainability and corporate responsibility. A proactive approach is wise and can bolster a company's reputation, ensure compliance with evolving regulations, stimulate innovation, and potentially open new market opportunities.

Compliance and Regulatory Advantage

Brand Image and Competitive Edge

Health and Safety

Innovation and Future-Proofing

Financial Implications

The Potential of PFAS-Free Nano Coatings

The field of material science has reached an exciting turning point with a recent innovation that hasn't yet caught widespread attention. This innovation involves the development of nano coatings that are completely free from PFAS (also sometimes referred to as 'F-Zero' or Zero-F, free of fluorinated compounds, Fluoro Free, etc.), bringing forth remarkable performance capabilities. This significant progress is particularly relevant for a wide array of industries seeking to eliminate PFAS from their product offerings.

What sets these PFAS-free nano coatings apart is their ability to meet the demand for water and oil repellency in products — a demand that was previously met exclusively through the use of any of the thousands of fluorine compounds that are umbrellaed under the term "Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances" - better known as PFAS. The introduction of PFAS-free coatings represents a pivotal shift, enabling industries to explore new product formulations that maintain desired performance characteristics while also being safer for the environment and public health.

Limitations of PFAS-Free Nano Coatings

PFAS-free nanocoatings, while offering significant and constantly improving hydrophobic and oleophobic properties alongside great durability, do not match the near indestructible "forever" durability and water and oil repellency characteristics of most PFAS-containing coatings.

However, for many applications, such as pizza boxes or industrial filters, the need for these extreme properties is not just excessive but unnecessary. In these scenarios, the benefits of choosing an environmentally friendlier option—despite potential trade-offs in longevity and repellency—are not merely acceptable; they're actively preferred due to the environmental, regulatory, and market advantages they offer.

Industries Benefiting from PFAS-Free Nanocoatings

Through innovative formulation, elaborate testing, and close collaboration between the scientific and producer community and the industry, novel nanocoatings can be a great substitute rather rapidly - especially in scenarios where 'forever' durability is not the most crucial factor.


Adopting PFAS-Free Nanocoatings

As industries that have traditionally relied on PFAS-based coatings seek sustainable alternatives, the shift towards PFAS-free nanocoatings presents several critical considerations:

The
Takeaway

  • PFAS is generally bad news once it is made. It will get tougher for all involved.
  • Moving away from PFAS now makes fiscal and image sense and readies companies for looming legislation.
  • Novel PFAS-free nanocoatings can be an effective alternatives worth looking into.
  • Many industries can adopt eco-friendly PFAS-free nanocoatings readily. The technology and expertise exists.
  • Embracing PFAS-free nanocoatings today requires some effort and investment but promises widespread benefits.

How can
Lotus Nano
Assist?

Contact us to discuss PFAS replacement opportunities with PFAS-free Nanocoatings in your Industry.

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