Still an essential ingredient: PFAS in pump systems

Wayne Rose.

PFAS-containing materials are an omnipresent feature in pumping systems. Wayne Rose, Secretariat of the Europump Marketing Commission, and newly appointd CEO of the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA) sets out his sector’s position on the topic.

Due to their unmatched thermal and chemical resistance, unique tribological properties, and any combination of these characteristics, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS)-containing materials are used in virtually every application where pumps are appear. For example in sealings, bearings, cable sheaths, coatings, pump inserts and membranes. However, given that PFAS-based materials are up to one hundred times more expensive than any of the natural or synthetic elastomers, they are only used in those cases where absolutely no alternative is available; and currently no alternative material guarantees the same levels of performance, safety, and/or working lifetime.

Therefore, any substitution with other less suitable materials would lead to rapid failures, and leakages, which could result in the release of aggressive media, harmful gases, or steam, which could in turn cause serious injury to both humans and the environment.

The challenge presented by the lack of PFAS-free alternatives is not limited to pump applications but applies just as much to other key pieces of equipment such as valves and compressors in downstream industries like pharma, chemicals, and aerospace. And some electronic components critical to the safe and efficient operation of these applications also require the use of PFAS based materials.

While Europump, representing Europe’s pump manufacturers, fully supports any regulation aimed at preventing PFAS substances from entering the environment, it must be stated that in certain pump (and other related product) applications the use of PFAS remains essential, due to safety, efficiency, and functionality concerns. And given that no suitable substitutes for these specific applications are currently available, the use of PFAS materials should remain possible, so that pollution of the environment by other acutely hazardous substances can be prevented, and any harm to humans avoided.

Pumps play a central role in central heating and water supply in the home, sewage and wastewater treatment, manufacturing, dredging, and a host of other applications and key industries.