11 Steps for Reducing PFAS Exposure in Electronics ManufacturingArticle
What can the electronics industry do about PFAS-exposure risk?
Direct exposure to PFAS in the electronics production process poses a significant health risk to employees, inviting potential workforce health complications and legal liabilities related to occupational safety and health.
Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Assessment: First assess your company’s use of PFAS both in the manufacturing process and in the materials used to produce your products. This requires accessing all data related to the processes and the materials used.
- Substitution: Look for safer alternative materials to replace the use of PFAS in the production process. Several alternatives, such as hydrocarbon-based materials, have already been developed for many applications of PFAS. It’s important that alternatives are fully vetted to ensure they don’t pose similar or other health and environmental concerns.
- Containment: Implement improved containment methods in the manufacturing processes to reduce potential PFAS releases. This can include enhanced engineering controls and closed-loop systems.
- Staff Training: Ensure that all staff are well trained in the handling and disposal of materials containing PFAS. A well-informed workforce can significantly decrease the likelihood of accidental releases.
- Protective Equipment: Provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees who work directly with PFAS-containing materials to reduce their direct exposure.
- Waste Management: Implement rigorous waste management practices, including proper disposal of PFAS-containing waste. If possible, explore opportunities for waste treatment technologies that can break down PFAS, such as plasma treatment, photolysis, Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs), biodegradation and electrochemical treatments.
- Supply Chain Engagement: Engage with suppliers to encourage them to reduce or eliminate their use of PFAS in products supplied for manufacturing processes. This can involve adopting procurement policies that favour suppliers who minimize or eliminate PFAS in their products and the use of supply chain mapping software, such as CleanChain.
- Monitoring & Reporting: Regularly monitor PFAS use, emissions and worker exposure levels. Transparent reporting of these levels not only fosters trust with employees and the community but can also highlight areas where improvements can be made, hopefully leading to the total elimination of PFAS from your supply chain and processes.
- Innovation & Research: Invest in research and development of non-PFAS materials for use in your products. Encouraging innovation in this area can lead to long-term solutions that are safer for both the environment and human health.
- Policy Advocacy: Support policies and regulations that aim to reduce PFAS use and exposure. Companies can play a significant role in shaping industry standards and regulations.
- Partnerships: Reach out to organizations and governmental agencies to gain access to information about PFAS legislation and to learn about the resources available to businesses to tackle the PFAS challenge in electronics.
In implementing these measures, it is essential to comply with local and national regulations that are already in place and to stay informed about ongoing research and evolving best practices for managing PFAS. By adopting a comprehensive strategy, companies can make significant strides in reducing risks associated with PFAS and create a safer working environment for their employees, as well as a cleaner and more sustainable industry.