Fluoropolymers are a distinct class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), high molecular weight (MW) polymers with fluorine attached to their carbon-only backbone. Fluoropolymers possess a unique combination of properties and unmatched functional performance critical to the products and manufacturing processes they enable and are irreplaceable in many uses. Fluoropolymers have documented safety profiles; are thermally, biologically, and chemically stable, negligibly soluble in water, nonmobile, nonbioavailable, nonbioaccumulative, and nontoxic. Although fluoropolymers fit the PFAS structural definition, they have very different physical, chemical, environmental, and toxicological properties when compared with other PFAS. This study describes the composition, uses, performance properties, and functionalities of 14 fluoropolymers, including fluoroplastics and fluoroelastomers, and presents data to demonstrate that they satisfy the widely accepted polymer hazard assessment criteria to be considered polymers of low concern (PLC). The PLC criteria include physicochemical properties, such as molecular weight, which determine bioavailability and warn of potential hazard. Fluoropolymers are insoluble (e.g., water, octanol) solids too large to migrate into the cell membrane making them nonbioavailable, and therefore, of low concern from a human and environmental health standpoint. Further, the study results demonstrate that fluoropolymers are a distinct and different group of PFAS and should not be grouped with other PFAS for hazard assessment or regulatory purposes. When combined with an earlier publication by Henry et al., this study demonstrates that commercial fluoropolymers are available from the seven participating companies that meet the criteria to be considered PLC, which represent approximately 96% of the global commercial fluoropolymer market. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2023;19:326-354. © 2022 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC).
Keywords: Applications; Fluoropolymers; Low concern; PFAS; Property Combinations.
© 2022 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC).