Understanding PFAS Chemicals: Discovering Safer Alternatives

Alba Rodriguez

March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

For many years, environmental concerns have been driving the need to carefully manage industrial processes, particularly when it comes to the materials used to create long-lasting goods and products.

Perfluoroalkylated and polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) are chemicals with a long history of use dating back to 1940, but they pose serious risks to people, the environment, and even bacteria.

Dubbed “forever chemicals”, these substances have been widely used despite their toxicity. In this article, we'll delve into their effects and uses, and offer some alternatives that can help make industrial processes more sustainable.

At PAVCO, we're committed to offering comprehensive and eco-friendly solutions for all your chemical needs. With over 75 years of experience in developing and supplying chemicals for the finishing industry, we're proud to provide plating solutions that are safe, efficient, and environmentally sound.

Why are PFAS Chemicals a Concern?

PFAS chemicals are a group of compounds that feature a strong bond between fluorine and carbon. While this bond provides many benefits, such as strength and durability, it also poses serious health risks. PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they are resistant to bacteria, fire, and water, and do not degrade over time.

When PFAS chemicals are discarded, they can leach into the surrounding soil, creating a persistent problem for future generations. Moreover, PFAS chemicals are used in various industries, including the manufacturing of carpets, clothing, textiles, food packaging, cable and wire coatings, and semiconductors.

Northwestern University scientists have developed a process that breaks down two main classes of PFAS compounds using low temperatures and inexpensive reagents. This simple process produces benign end-products and could provide a powerful solution to eliminate harmful PFAS chemicals.

Where are PFAS Chemicals Found?

PFAS chemicals have been used for over 70 years in products that require nonstick and waterproofing properties. They can be found in various items, such as cooking utensils, waterproof cosmetics, firefighting foams, and products that resist grease and oil.

PFAS chemicals are not restricted to one industry but are present in many industries, such as building and construction, infrastructure, facades, safety equipment, fuel system seals and hoses, microelectronics, plasma machinery, and more. Sadly, PFAS chemicals have also found their way into consumer goods and drinking water. In fact, studies have found PFAS chemicals in the blood of 97% of the U.S.A. population.

The Health Effects of PFAS Chemicals

Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to decreased fertility, developmental effects in children, and increased risks of various types of cancer. It can also reduce immunity to combat infections and increase cholesterol levels.

The strength of PFAS chemicals comes from their carbon-fluorine bonds, which are the strongest bonds in organic chemistry. While the health effects of PFAS chemicals are not yet fully understood, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently declared several PFAS as unsafe due to their indestructibility and intense effects.

At PAVCO, we're committed to providing sustainable solutions for all your chemical needs, which is why we have steered away from PFAS chemicals for many years.

In the electroplating industry, PFAS chemicals have been used traditionally as mist suppressants for hexavalent chromium plating. This type of electroplating has not only been under scrutiny because of PFAS, but also because of the toxic nature of hexavalent chromium CrVI.

Pavco offers industry proven alternatives such as Decotri (Chloride based trivalent chromium) and Hex-A-Gone (Sulfate based trivalent chromium) to address this market need. Trivalent chromium plating solves two issues at once, PFAS and CrVI concerns.

Contact us today to learn more about our chemical solutions and how we can help you achieve your environmental goals.



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