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A Focus on Forever Chemicals

PFAS remain in the environment for a long time

November 30, 2021

Cleaning chemical manufacturers, and those who use their products, pay close attention to the safety of these products so they don’t do more harm than good. One type of chemicals currently under scrutiny— perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—are dubbed “forever chemicals” as they don’t degrade in the environment.

European Cleaning Journal takes a look at PFAS, which are found in many products as well as product packaging. They are commonly added to carpeting and floor coatings to provide stain resistance.

Due to their prevalence, PFAS are present in soil, air, food, and water. They may take years to leave the human body, with unknown long-term effects. Their use has been linked to various health problems such as high cholesterol, a suppressed immune system, cancer, and reduced efficacy of vaccines.

Last year, the European Commission released a plan to phase out the use of PFAS in the European Union unless they were proven to be essential for the application they were created for. The U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) recently announced a three-year initiative to regulate PFAS and restrict their use. However, U.S. manufacturers still use the chemicals, and public water systems are not required to monitor for any PFAS.

As chemicals are widely employed in the cleaning industry for sanitizing, disinfecting, polishing, and various other tasks, European Cleaning Journal looked at whether reports on forever chemicals have had a serious effect on the business of chemical manufacturers and cleaning companies. Perhaps the concerns about eliminating infectious pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 have outweighed apprehension about PFAS.

The publication found manufacturers are focusing on products that can effectively provide cleaning and disinfection in a sustainable way. Although at least one manufacturer admits its floor coating products currently need PFAS to remain effective, that company is looking to replace the active ingredient in its coatings as soon as possible.

In the meantime, building service contractors (BSCs) should carefully consider the products they are using. BSCs and individual cleaning companies can check their product data sheets and communicate with their suppliers to ensure they are purchasing products that are safer for the environment.

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