Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)
What is it?
- Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) is a synthetic (man-made) chemical substance belonging to a large family of compounds known as perfluorinated chemicals.
How is it used?
- Prior to the announcement of a global voluntary phase-out of the production of PFOS by the major manufacturer beginning in 2000, PFOS was imported into Canada and used primarily in water, oil, soil and grease repellents for paper and packaging, rugs, carpets and fabrics, and in fire-fighting foams used to fight fuel-based fires.
- Based on a 2004 survey of remaining PFOS uses, only 3000 kg of PFOS was imported into Canada for use as a surfactant in the chromium electroplating sector. With the exception of an existing stockpile of 3000 kg of PFOS in fire-fighting foam purchased prior to 2002, all other stockpiles of PFOS have now been exhausted.
- There are no manufacturers or exporters of PFOS in Canada.
Why did the Government of Canada Assess It?
- PFOS can be released to the environment throughout its lifecycle, from the handling and manufacturing of the chemical to the use and disposal of products which contain it.
- In 2000, a screening assessment was undertaken on PFOS, its salts, and its precursors on the basis of the potential persistence and bioaccumulation of PFOS in the environment, and its inherent toxicity to organisms, and in response to a public nomination to the Minister of Environment to add these substances to the Priority Substances List. Precursors considered to have the potential to degrade to PFOS were included in the assessment.
What Is the Government of Canada Doing?
- On July 1, 2006, the Ministers of the Environment and Health published their final decision on the screening assessment of PFOS, its salts and certain other compounds.
- Government of Canada scientists found that current levels of exposure for PFOS are below levels that would have an adverse effect on human health. However, some wildlife organisms (e.g., polar bears, fish-eating bird species) could be near or at levels that would cause effects and could be harmed by current exposures to PFOS.
- In December 2006, PFOS was added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
- Final Regulations (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Its Salts and Certain Other Compounds Regulations) prohibiting most uses of PFOS, with exemptions for specific uses, such as existing stocks of PFOS-based fire fighting foams, were published on June 11, 2008.
- In addition to the Regulations, legislation has been passed in Parliament that required the Government to add PFOS to the Virtual Elimination List by January 17, 2009. The Regulations Adding Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Its Salts to the Virtual Elimination List (SOR/2009-15) entered into force on January 13, 2009.
- Canada is also working through the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants to reduce the global production of PFOS.
Please consult Environment Canada's Management of Toxic Substances Website for more information on PFOS.