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UK, Finland dissent led to withdrawal of PFHxA SVHC proposal

Products - Teflon frying pan © jiradelta - Fotolia.com

Germany's withdrawal of its proposal to name PFHxA and its ammonium salt an SVHC last December, came after dissent from the UK and Finland, minutes from an Echa committee reveal.

The diverging positions adopted by EU member states on the PFAS compound could prove significant in the wider debate about how REACH’s equivalent level of concern (Eloc) principle should be interpreted for environmental pollutants.

The Eloc principle was central to Germany’s proposal.

The difference of opinion, and the withdrawal of the proposal, came during December’s meeting of Echa’s Member States Committee (MSC), the minutes for which were published on 12 February.

In a joint statement, included in the minutes, 17 other EU member states expressed explicit support for the SVHC proposal. However, in the face of some dissent, Germany withdrew the intention to avoid "an undesirable delay in risk management".

Germany submitted an SVHC proposal for PFHxA and its ammonium salt last year and Echa ran a public consultation, which ended in October.

However, at the MSC meeting, the UK and Finland suggested a "timeout" for the proposal, to allow for policy agreement on the use of the Eloc principle for environmental pollutants.

Historically, Eloc has been used to identify SVHCs on account of skin sensitisation and endocrine disruption. In a statement published last year, Cefic described the idea of using the principle for environmental pollutants as "premature" and called for a policy paper on the subject.

Germany is now preparing a restriction proposal for the substance.

The authorities are increasingly seeking to control the uses of PFAS compounds through regulation, owing primarily to their persistence in the environment. As a class, the compounds are best known for their use in stain-repellent coatings and fire-fighting foams. PFHxA is not manufactured in, or imported into, the EU, but is a degradation product of other PFAS compounds.

An industry-funded review of PFHxA, published in January, recommended "continued environmental monitoring to confirm that levels do not rise over time" as well as further study of children's exposure to the chemical.

Chair concerns

Meeting attendees also discussed an "EU government relations law firm" that, according to the minutes, approached many EU permanent representatives, member state competent authorities and the MSC secretariat about PFHxA before the meeting.

The firm, acting on behalf of a company, asked for the opportunity discuss their comments on the proposal and for these to be shared with the committee.

The chair, Echa’s Watze de Wolfe, declined these requests because neither the firm nor the company had submitted comments for the public consultation, and he did not want to create a "privileged situation". He also wrote to the firm expressing his "concerns".

Neither the firm nor the company are named in the minutes.

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