PFAS Regulation in the Electronics Industry: Should We Be Concerned?

by Matthew Chalkley, Supply Chain Management and Operations Consultant; Kelly Scanlon, Director, Environment, Health and Safety Policy & Research, IPC 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of 4,730 man-made chemicals (OECD, 2018), the two most well-known of which are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS are used in a wide variety of consumer products and industrial applications because of their unique chemical and physical properties, including oil and water repellence, temperature and chemical resistance, and surfactant properties.

There is evidence that certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time and lead to adverse human health outcomes.

In July, IPC completed a screening study to gain a better understanding of the evolving policies shaping the production and use of PFAS. The study examines how these policies may affect the electronics industry depending on which PFAS substances are involved and how they are used within the myriad of electronic equipment and electronics manufacturing processes.

The IPC study shows that the semiconductor industry, in particular, is very reliant on PFAS.  The study also indicates that fluoropolymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a type of PFAS, are used for insulating cables in a variety of electrical and electronic applications. PTFE-insulated wires and cables can be used in harsh environments and in use cases where high-volume data transmission is required, such as automotive electronics, medical equipment, and data centers.

Additionally, PTFE and other fluoropolymers can be used in rigid, flexible, and hybrid printed circuit boards, especially those PCBs used for high frequency and microwave applications.

IPC needs you to review the preliminary findings from our screening study confirm whether we have accurately captured the uses of PFAS in electronics products and processes.  Also, we rely on your feedback to let us know whether the uses of PFAS we describe are unique to electronics, and how you would rank the criticality of PFAS to the performance of the electronics. Please send your feedback to Kelly Scanlon, IPC’s director of environment, health, and safety policy and research, by August 28.

The screening study has already provided IPC with the insights needed to respond to a Call for Evidence from the national authorities of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The information they receive will aid those authorities as they prepare a joint REACH restriction proposal to limit the risks to the environment and human health from the manufacture and use of PFAS.

We ask that you review and confirm our screening study findings and recommendations. And please feel free to share any additional supporting data and information that would be beneficial as we continue our PFAS journey. IPC Contact: Kelly Scanlon.



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