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Risk assessment of PFAS alternatives

Evaluating the environmental and health aspects of new PFAS options is very important. Within POPFREE, we use our three-step model for risk assessment.

Within POPFREE, novel PFAS-free treatments and formulations and related benchmark formulations are evaluated to assess and compare performance, related to properties such as e.g. water and oil/dirt repellence, fire suppressant or wetting/spreading capabilities, depending on specific applications. To avoid a regrettable substitution, where a new alternative introduces new risks to human health or the environment, a three-stage environmental/health evaluation will be carried out. The starting point for all evaluations is a list of materials compositions.

The three stages are:

  1. A Chemical Risk Assessment, carried out for all viable alternatives which pass relevant functional performance criteria for the category.
  2. A Screening Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to identify biggest environmental impacts for selected alternatives of high interest – with high performance or otherwise likely to be quickly adapted.
  3. A full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for a few alternatives of special interest.

1. Chemical Risk Assessment

All viable alternatives and related benchmark formulations are analysed in a chemical risk assessment based on CAS numbers (where available) and publicly available information such as safety data sheets, CLP data and registration dossiers (ECHA). The evaluation includes life cycle phases from formulation of a ready-to use blend, use phase and expected end of use. From a product life cycle perspective, the focus is on “gate to grave”. Different scenarios will be considered to include user behaviour. The data will be evaluated semi-quantitatively using a “traffic-light” visualisation where red stands for high risk that cannot be handled even with precautionary measures, yellow for risk that can and needs to be managed and green for no identified risk based on publicly available data.
Input: A list of substances that are used in the blending process.

2. Screening Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

In the Screening LCA, data on production of substances will be considered in more detail, including resource demand (materials and energy) for production, and emissions for upstream processes. The result is a cradle-to-gate LCA that highlights environmental impacts as hot spots, connected to substances and life cycle phases. The results can be used for developing new formulations with a low environmental impact. Results from the first stage will be included. The Screening LCA will be carried out for at least one formulation in each case, and the selection will be coordinated with the case partners and based on the results of the Chemical Risk Assessment.
Input: Data in supplier locations and available information on process technology used by suppliers.

3. Full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

The Full LCA will be applied for a small subset of formulations of special interest in the project. The aim is to enable comparison of different formulations from a life cycle perspective. Therefore, data that were not included in the Screening LCA need to be added to make sure that system boundaries and function are equal for the systems that are compared.
Input: Complementary data to what is already included in stage 2.