Canadian Rental Service

Snook’s Look: Be prepared for PFAS disruption

By Andrew Snook   

Features Government and regulatory pfas

A category of chemicals we rely on is falling out of favour.


You may or may not have noticed, but there is a lot of chatter happening these days about the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).  Dubbed “forever chemicals” for being nearly indestructible, this family of thousands of synthetic chemicals can be found in an abundance of products, including many that our industry interacts with on a regular basis.

Why does that matter? It’s because there are many legislative and regulatory changes being brought forth to restrict the use of these chemicals in the future due to potential health risks they pose. PFAS reporting requirements are already required in the U.S., with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency looking at further measures. Canada has added some PFAS to its list of toxic substances and has draft proposals published calling for tracking of their use and restrictions on their use, import and sale.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers discussed this news in their article, “EPA releases pre-published rule on reporting and record keeping requirements for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).” AEM writes: “This rule requires any chemical manufacturer, or importer, of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), in any year since Jan. 1, 2011, to submit to EPA information on these substances regarding chemical identities, production volumes, industrial uses, commercial and consumer uses, worker exposures, disposal and any existing information related to potential environmental and health effects. The scope of this rule applies to PFAS found in chemical mixtures, complex articles, or its bulk form.”  

AEM continues by explaining that PFAS chemicals are used “to provide high thermal and chemical stability; a resistance to heat, pressure, chemical and friction stressors; as well as very low surface tensions, making them repellent to both water and oil.”

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Do those sound like characteristics that are advantageous for many of the parts used in the equipment rental industry? They sure are. PFAS can be found in items such as seals, gaskets and o-rings, hoses, hydraulic fluid, fire retardants, electronics and electrical equipment, refrigerants, alternative power technologies and paints and coatings.

At the end of 2022, 3M announced that it was exiting PFAS manufacturing and was planning on discontinuing the use of PFAS across its product portfolio by the end of 2025. The company stated, “3M’s decision is based on careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of the evolving external landscape, including multiple factors such as accelerating regulatory trends focused on reducing or eliminating the presence of PFAS in the environment and changing stakeholder expectations.” It may also have had something to do with the fact that 3M is in a variety of massive lawsuits related to PFAS settlements. In August of 2023, Reuters reported that 3M received preliminary approval for a US$10.3-billion deal to “resolve claims by U.S. public drinking water providers that the company polluted drinking water with toxic chemicals.” 

In many cases, there isn’t an adequate replacement for PFAS chemicals. So, if the supply of PFAS becomes restricted, this could create significant supply chain disruptions for the manufacturers of many of the parts that the rental industry relies on for the day-to-day maintenance of its equipment. And if future legislation and regulations end up restricting the use of PFAS in products, then this could certainly tighten supply further.

This could be a good time to talk to your suppliers and ask them if PFAS is used in the production of their products. If so, what are they doing to prepare for potential future restrictions? 


Andrew Snook is the former editor of Rock to Road, Crane and Hoist and On Site.


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