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Frequently asked questions about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

FAQ created by the BfR on 21 September 2020

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are industrial chemicals which are used in several industrial processes and consumer products, due to their special technical properties. This group of substances includes more than 4,700 different compounds.

In the perfluoroalkyl substances sub-group, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are the most thoroughly studied substances. Like many PFAS, these two compounds are not readily degradable, and are now detectable in the environment, the food chain, and in humans.

In September 2020, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a reassessment of the health risks related to the presence of PFAS in food. This is the first EFSA opinion in which, in addition to PFOA and PFOS, other PFAS, namely perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), were included into the exposure assessment and health risk assessment.

In the reassessment, EFSA referred to the results of studies indicating an effect of certain PFAS on the immune system. A value of 4.4 nanograms (ng) per kilogram (kg) of bodyweight per week for the sum of four PFAS, namely PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS and PFOS, was derived as the tolerable weekly intake (TWI).

The use of PFOS has been largely banned since 2006 and that of PFOA since July 2020. At the European level, restrictions and bans on the production and use of other PFAS are currently being worked on.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has compiled a list of questions - and their answers - on the subject of PFAS.

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FAQ

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Date Title Size
21.09.2020
FAQ created by the BfR
Frequently asked questions about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) 107.1 KB
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Communication

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Date Title Size
18.09.2020
Communication No 042/2020 from the BfR
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): New opinion from the European Food Safety Authority 46.2 KB
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