DuPont’s PFOA progress

I have not realized how vital the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is in many products. Which is why it is probably taking DuPont and probably other PFOA producers and consumers years to develop an alternative chemical. The company’s goal is to no longer produce, buy or use PFOA by 2015 or earlier if possible.

Unfortunately, trace levels of PFOA emissions have been found as an unintended byproducts in fluorotelomer products, such as those used in repellants and firefighting foams. For many years PFOA has been used as a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers that went to a lot of products because of its versatile and durable and possess unique properties such as non-stick characteristics and heat and chemical-resistance.

A study was found that PFOA was present in the environment and the blood of the general population and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated in 2006 a voluntary stewardship program to reduce human and environmental exposure of the chemical.

DuPont says it was able to achieve significant progress on phasing out PFOA with the following activities:

  • Introduced new Echelon™ technology which reduces PFOA content by 99% in aqueous fluoropolymer dispersion (AFD) products. DuPont now has converted customers representing over 95 percent of its sales volume for AFD products to the newly formulated Echelon™ technology.
  • Commercialized new DuPont™ Capstone™ fluorotelomer products that are made from short-chain compounds that cannot breakdown to PFOA in the environment. Capstone™ products are available in home furnishings, fire fighting foam, fluorosurfactants, and leather end uses. In 2009, DuPont will introduce additional products for paper packaging, textile and other end use markets.
  • Developed PFOA replacement technology and successfully used this technology in the company’s global manufacturing facilities to produce test materials for all their major fluoropolymer product lines.DuPont says they begun supplying fluoropolymer products made without PFOA to customers for testing in their processes, and are working to obtain the appropriate regulatory approvals for this technology.

With this kind of progress, that made me ask a question: Is it really better for consumers, regulators and the chemical industry to have voluntary phase-out initiatives of concerned toxic chemicals instead of mandatory chemical regulation?

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