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PFAS in Electronics: Understanding the Risks and Environmental Regulations

PFAS Compliance

From the smartphones you use on a daily basis to the waterproof jacket you wear on a rainy day, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are present in many everyday electronics. However, these substances pose significant health and environmental risks, and their usage is being restricted by environmental regulations. Thus, learn about the risks associated with these hazardous substances in electronics and discover practical ways to reduce your exposure.

How to Verify PFAS in Electronics?

  1. Audit your supply chain. Look at your PFAS and/or fluorine content. You can accomplish these using certificates of compliance, test reports, material disclosures, and/or safety data sheets (SDS).
  2. Do risk assessments.
  3. Target analytical testing, via a plan, when necessary.

Need to know which PFAS regulations apply to your product? Contact Enviropass for a free consultation.

What are PFAS?

The definition differs from a jurisdiction to another. However, PFAS cover thousands of molecules with common characteristics. Here are the main definitions.

OECD’s Definition

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with a few exceptions, PFAS are molecules containing at least one fully fluorinated methyl (CF3) or methylene (CF2) group without any hydrogen or halogen atom directly bonded.

ECHA’s Definition

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) suggests that PFAS are molecules containing at minimum one fully fluorinated methyl (CF3) or methylene (CF2) carbon atom without any hydrogen or other halogens (e.g., chlorine, bromine, iodine) directly bonded to it.

EPA’s Definition

Moreover, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that PFAS are molecules containing fully saturated carbon atoms containing the R-CF2-CFR’R’’ unit. Here, R, R’, R’’ groups refer to any alkyl group besides hydrogen atoms.

fluorine PFAS in Electronics

Polymer VS Non-Polymer PFAS?

Here is an example of a PFAS Structure where R can be any alkyl group besides halogens or hydrogen atoms:


Thousands of PFAS exist. However, there are two main types of PFAS:

  1. Polymer PFAS
  2. Non-Polymer PFAS
Tree diagram of the PFAS Group

Polymer PFAS

This type of PFAS is made up of a long chain structure with repeating units of fluorinated organic molecules. Typically, they are in applications requiring high chemical and thermal stability. Thus, this type of PFAS is usually present in articles e.g., physical products.

Non-Polymer PFAS

By contrast, this type of PFAS consists of short-chain molecules. Additionally, they contain fewer repeating units of fluorinated organic molecules. Frequently, this type is for applications requiring lower viscosity and better solubility. Therefore, they are usually present in chemical mixtures.

Among the main PFAS in Electronics

Likewise, common PFAS’ in electrical and electronic products include:

PFAS molecules


Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

  • Electronic components like cables and computer parts
  • Non-stick cookware such as Teflon
  • Water-resistant clothing
  • Stain-resistant and grease-resistant coatings
  • Fire-fighting foam

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)

  • Same as above
  • Photographic film

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

  • Electrical insulation
  • Medical Devices
  • Aerospace
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Seals and gaskets
  • Textile coatings

Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS)

  • Surfactant
  • Emulsifier
  • Dispersive

Importantly, we can even find PFAS in metal plating applications!

What is the Purpose of PFAS in Electronics?

These substances have a variety of purposes that serve the electronic industry. Indeed, their main properties include:



Chemical Stability

PFAS are highly resistant to chemical reactions and degradations. This increases their stability over time.

Thermal Stability

They can withstand high temperatures without degrading or releasing toxic-by products.

Low surface tension

They are highly repellant to liquids. They help to create non-stick surfaces.

High thermal and electrical insulation

They are useful in electrical components and thermal insulation applications.


They are highly water-repellent. This makes them useful for water-resistant coating or even firefighting foams.


They are highly lubricious making them useful as release agents or lubricants.

What are the Hazards of PFAS in Electronics?

LCA and electronics

The problem with PFAS is their persistence in the environment and bioaccumulation in the human body. In fact, carbon-fluorine bonds are among the strongest and do not break down easily, leading to long-term exposure risks. They are often referred to as “Forever Chemicals” for this very reason.

 Namely, they have been linked to a variety of health problems including:

  • An increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer.
  • Increased cholesterol levels.
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women.
  • A disruption of liver enzyme levels.
  • Inhibition of the immune system.
  • Disruption of endocrine and metabolic function.
  • Disruption of reproductive and developmental processes.
  • Low infant birth weight

Moreover, PFAS are persistent in the environment. Therefore, they can contaminate:

  • Soil
  • Water
  • Air
  • Wildlife

In fact, they can accumulate in food chains reaching high trophic levels such as predatory birds and marine mammals!

Where do we Find PFAS in Electronics?

Common applications of PFAS in electronics include:




They are used as process aids in the manufacturing of semiconductors.

Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBA)

They are used as soldering agents.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Laminates

They are used as flame-retardants to reduce the risk of fire.

Cable polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) coatings

They prevent electrical arcing. They leave PFOA residues and impurities.

Computer Hard Drives

They are used as lubricants to reduce friction between moving parts.

Synthetic Rubbers and fluoroelastomers

PTFE is used as a processing aid to produce fluoroelastomers. They can remain as a residue in the final product.


PFAS can be used as an additive. For example, PFBS is used for this purpose.

PTFE tapes

Leaves unintentional residues of PFOA. PTFE is often used as a coating on tapes.

Mineral oil (grease)

They can contain PFAS as impurities.

How are the PFAS in Electronics Regulated?

Considering growing concerns surrounding PFAS, many have started to regulate their use in products, namely in electronics.

Reportable PFAS in Electronics

There are two types of control:

  • Reportable PFAS
  • Restricted PFAS

Reportable PFAS in Electronics

They only apply to PFAS intentionally added i.e., not present as impurities. For instance, they are subject to reporting requirements: 

  • Pentadecafluorooctanoic acid (PFOA CAS# 335-67-1) in the European Union, under EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) candidate list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC).
  • In the state of Maine, specific reporting requirements of PFAS apply.
  • In the United States, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires companies to report the use of PFAS in their products.


In Canada and other US States, similar reporting requirements are projected to be put in place


Reportable PFAS in Maine

Maine PFAS in Electronics

For example, retailers and manufacturers of electronics products sold in Maine are required to disclose the presence of PFAS in their products, including the specific PFAS compounds and their concentrations.

The following needs to be reported:

  • Description of the product
  • Purpose of PFAS including product components
  • The exact amount of each PFAS using its CAS number is determined using a commercially available analytical method or a range approved for reporting purposes by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
  • Name and address of the manufacturer
  • Name, address, and phone number of a contact person for the manufacturer
  • Other information deemed as necessary with the DEP.
  • Retailers and manufacturers must also provide customers with information about how to properly handle and dispose of electrical products that contain PFAS, to minimize exposure and potential contamination.
  • Failure to comply with Maine’s PFAS regulations can result in penalties and enforcement actions.
    • The DEP may request a certificate of compliance if they have reason to believe that a product intentionally contains PFAS and did not report the information as stated above.

DEP Is working with the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse to develop an online reporting database.

Restricted PFAS in Electronics

PFOA Molecule

Long-chain PFAS (particularly PFOA) are restricted due to their persistence and toxicity concerns.

In Europe

In the EU and Switzerland, the following apply:



EU Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)

Acceptable threshold of 25 ppb.

EU REACH Annex XVII, entry 65

  • C9-C14 linear and/or branched perfluorocarboxylic acids (C9-C14 PFCAs), their salts and C9-C14 PFCAs-related substances
  • Perfluorononan-1-oic acid (PFNA);
  • Nonadecafluorodecanoic acid (PFDA);
  • Henicosafluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA)
  • Tricosafluorododecanoic acid (PFDoDA);
  • Pentacosafluorotridecanoic acid (PFTrDA)
  •  Heptacosafluorotetradecanoic acid (PFTDA); including its salts and precursors 

In North America




United States of America

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

EPA has identified certain PFAS like PFOA and PFOS as priority chemicals to regulate their use.

US State of Maine

PFAS ban by 2030

Prohibition of the sale and distribution of products intentionally containing PFAS by January 1st, 2030 unless designated as currently unavoidable use by the DEP. 


Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Long-chain (LC) PFAS Restriction

A proposed restriction on the manufacture, use, and release of LC-PFAS into the environment.

Asia and Oceania





Chemical Substance Control Law (CSCL)

The Japanese government has the authority to restrict or ban the use of chemical substances, including PFAS, and to require companies to adopt measures to reduce releases to the environment and minimize exposure to these substances.


Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (ICIS)

ICIS provides a framework for the assessment of PFAS used in industrial and consumer products, and for the management of their risks. The Australian government may take action to restrict or ban the use of PFAS if they pose a risk to the environment or human health.

Alternatives to PFAS in Electronics

One of the solutions to reducing PFAS in electronics lies in finding alternatives that are safer for both the environment and human health. Some possible alternatives include:

Silicone-based materials

Silicones are non-toxic and do not persist in the environment. They are also resistant to heat and water, making them a suitable alternative to PFAS in electronic products. However, silicones don’t restist to oil as much as PFAS.

Natural oils and waxes

Furthermore. natural oils and waxes, such as beeswax and vegetable oil, can be used as an alternative to PFAS in electronic products that require grease resistance. These natural products are biodegradable and do not pose a threat to human health or the environment.

Bio-based polymers

In addition, bio-based polymers are made from renewable resources, such as corn starch or sugarcane, and are biodegradable. They can be an alternative to PFAS in electrical insulation and other applications in electronics.

Alternatives to PFAS in electronics
Electronic PCBA

Fluorine-free coatings

Subsequently, fluorine-free coatings, such as polyethylene, can be used as an alternative to PFAS in electronic products that require stain and grease resistance. These coatings are biodegradable and do not pose a threat to human health or the environment.

Glass-reinforced composites

Also, glass-reinforced composites can be an alternative to PFAS in electronic products that require strength and durability, such as circuit boards. Glass-reinforced composites can provide similar mechanical properties as PFAS and are more environmentally friendly as they do not contain PFAS. In addition, glass-reinforced composites can be easily molded and shaped, making them suitable for use in a variety of electronic products.

Bio-based Materials

Finally, bio-based materials such as bioplastics are another alternative to PFAS in electronics. They are derived from renewable resources and do not contain PFAS. These materials can be used to manufacture electronic components, such as casings and cables, and can provide similar performance to PFAS-based materials. Using bio-based materials in electronics can also help reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, as they are produced from sustainable sources and do not contribute to the depletion of non-renewable resources.

Do you need to verify PFAS in electroncis ? Request free consultation with Enviropass!