A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme’s Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (UNEP EEAP) sheds new light on trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) in the global environment. 

The report, Environmental Effects of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion, UV Radiation, and Interactions with Climate Change, adds to a growing body of evidence that shows:

  1. Concerns about manmade TFA arising from HFCs and HFOs are overstated, and
  2. TFA should not be grouped into broad definitions of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Here are the findings 📊🔬 … 

The impact of manmade TFA is minimal. While it is true that TFA can be created from manmade sources, the scale of that production and its resulting environmental impact is inconsequential. Studies into the likely impact of TFA arising from HFC and HFO use find that it will have negligible human and environmental impact

A closer look 🧐: The researchers conclude that TFA is unlikely to “interact with biological molecules” and “bioaccumulate.” In other words: “It is unlikely to cause adverse effects in terrestrial or aquatic organisms.” And when looking at only TFA arising from HFC and HFO degradation, they conclude, “the predicted amounts are well below the threshold for concern.” (See p. 5 and p. 292.)

TFA should not be grouped into broad definitions of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): The risk and hazard profiles of individual PFAS substances varies greatly. But policymakers in parts of the U.S. and the E.U. are pursuing broad bans on all PFAS substances instead of tailoring regulations to the specific substances linked to harm. This is a mistake with far-reaching consequences. 

The majority opinion 👥: A majority of an expert panel agree that “all PFAS should not be grouped together… the definition of appropriate subgroups can only be defined on a case-by-case manner.” They also assert, “to regulate [all PFAS] substances as a class (as has been suggested) is not scientifically defensible and TFA should be treated as a unique chemical for the purposes of regulation.” (See p. 278 and p. 292.)

Key to remember 🧠: Environmental activists and marketers of “natural” refrigerants denigrate low-GWP HFCs and HFOs, misrepresent facts about TFA, and advocate for broad PFAS restrictions without scientific justification. The UNEP report, along with similar reports, provides a distinctively different perspective. Industry professionals and policymakers are urged to rely on science-based evidence to guide decision-making and be cautious of misinformation spread by these activists and marketers. For further details, visit globalFACT.org or read the full report here.