PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that are used in a huge range of products. They are a relatively new type of chemical and have unique properties which has made them popular for some specific functions in formulations.
One of the properties of PFAS is that they are extremely durable and do not ultimately biodegrade. Because of this, they can pollute the environment. Most environments around the world are polluted with at least one type of PFAS – particularly sites where fire-fighting foam has previously been used, as this is a major use of PFAS.
For a long time, it was thought that this was the only concern with PFAS. However, some PFAS have now been found to be bioaccumlative and toxic to aquatic life. The way that PFAS bioaccumulates and causes toxic effects is different to most other chemicals, which meant that the modelling tools that scientists used did not predict these properties earlier.
Having this combination of characteristics puts these PFAS in the group of high concern chemicals. Some PFAS have formally been classified as persistent organic pollutants, and countries around the world have agreed to severely restrict their use.
However, many PFAS are still widely used. Based on what we know about PFAS now, these PFAS that seem to be less bioaccumulative and toxic to aquatic life. That said, these PFAS are still highly persistent in the environment, and our understanding of potential long-term effects continues to grow.