Proposed PFAS Ban Would Create Major Problems for Colorado

Sweeping legislation in the Colorado Senate, SB 24-081, threatens to ban a class of chemistries that are critical for Colorado industries and could create major disruptions for families and businesses across the state.

The proposal calls for a ban of all PFAS substances, which would include a particular category of fluorinated chemistries known as fluoropolymers, which are essential for many industries, including semiconductors, renewable energy, healthcare equipment, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, automobiles, and agriculture.

Fluoropolymer chemistries also support many products that are essential for health, safety, or the functioning of society, and for many of which there may be no viable alternatives.

But don’t take our word for it.

The U.S. Department of Defense has said that losing access to PFAS, including fluoropolymers, “would greatly impact national security,” and it highlights the essential uses of fluoropolymers in a wide variety of critical applications: “Dozens of different fluoropolymers (e.g., PVDF, ECTFE, PTFE) and fluoroelastomers (e.g., FKM/FFKM) are critical to modern UV-resistant, ozone-resistant, weather-resistant, temperature-resistant, high pressure-resistant, chemical-resistant “rubberized” fuel lines. They are also key materials in hoses, tubing, hydraulic system lines, O-rings, seals and gaskets, tapes, and cables and connectors widely used in civil and military aircraft, space systems, vehicles, weapon systems, utility systems, and other applications. Alternatives are not as resistant to embrittlement and break-down and have a much shorter useful life, leading to more frequent part replacement, which is not feasible for space or satellite uses.”

In addition, the Semiconductor PFAS Consortium, an international group of semiconductor industry stakeholders developing a standard approach to PFAS based on science, stated that “Fluoropolymers are a subclass of PFAS that possess a unique set of characteristics … including inertness, purity, low flammability, temperature stability, resistance to chemical permeation, low coefficient of friction, optical properties, mechanical properties, contamination control, electrical properties, processability, resistance to bacterial growth, and long service life (>25 years). [T]he use of fluoropolymers is often required by safety and insurance guidelines. To maintain the cleanroom and assembly test purity requirements, fluoropolymers are also needed to prevent particle generation, which is detrimental to semiconductor production yield.”

AdvaMed, a trade association representing advanced medical technology companies, recently said in a letter to Minnesota legislators, “Today, in many cases, medical devices that use fluoropolymers, one type of PFAS, are the ‘standard of care.’ Moreover, the common PFAS materials (fluoropolymers) used in medical devices are not responsible for the water and soil contamination . . . Banning access to FDA regulated medical devices and medical products can result in significant decreases in clinical success, including higher morbidity and mortality rates and can place thousands of patients’ lives at risk, unnecessarily, for lack of available treatments and life-saving options. Any blanket regulation of PFAS places at risk the ability of companies to manufacture and provide lifesaving and life-enhancing fluoropolymer containing medical devices to patients across the U.S. and the globe.”

In addition to creating severe disruption for Coloradoans, SB 24-081 also undercuts the compromises that were reached in 2022 PFAS legislation (HB 22-1345) and creates broad, sweeping bans before that law has even been implemented. 

The reality is that the majority of attention on PFAS has focused not on fluoropolymers but rather on a handful of substances that are no longer produced by leading global manufacturers in the US, EU, Japan, or India. Fluoropolymers in commerce today have been reviewed by regulators before introduction, are subject to ongoing review, and are supported by a robust body of health and safety data.

Colorado lawmakers should work with industry stakeholders on practical, science-based legislation that recognizes the critical applications that rely on fluoropolymer chemistries in order to avoid severe consequences to Coloradoans.

The fluoropolymer value chain is encouraged to get involved! For more information, contact Jay_West@americanchemistry.com