Perfluorooctanoic Acid - Applications


PFOA has widespread applications. In 1976, PFOA was reported as a water and oil repellent "in fabrics and leather and in the production of floor waxes and waxed papers"; however, it is believed that paper is no longer treated with perfluorinated compounds, but with fluorotelomers with less than 0.1% PFOA. The compound is also used in "insulators for electric wires, planar etching of fused silica", fire fighting foam, and outdoor clothing. As a protonated species, the acid form of PFOA was the most widely used perfluorocarboxylic acid used as a reactive intermediate in the production of fluoroacrylic esters.

As a salt, the dominant use is as an emulsifier for the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or Teflon), polyvinylidene fluoride, and fluoroelastomers. For this use, 3M subsidiary Dyneon has a replacement emulsifer despite DuPont stating PFOA is an "essential processing aid". PFOA is used in the production of Gore-Tex as it is PTFE-based. In PTFE processing, PFOA is in aqueous solution and forms micelles that contain tetrafluoroethylene and the growing polymer. PFOA can be used to stabilize fluoropolymer and fluoroelastomer suspensions prior to further industrial processing and in ion-pair reversed-phase liquid chromatography it can act as an extraction agent. PFOA also finds uses in electronic products and as an industrial fluorosurfactant.

In a 2009 USEPA study of 116 products—purchased between March 2007 and May 2008 and found to contain at least 0.01% fluorine by weight—the concentrations of PFOA were determined. Concentrations shown below range from not detected, or ND, (with the detection limit in parenthesis) to 6750 with concentrations in nanograms of PFOA per gram of sample—or parts per billion—unless stated otherwise.

Product Range
Pre-treated carpeting ND (<1.5) to 462
Carpet-care liquids 19 to 6750
Treated apparel 5.4 to 161
Treated upholstery 0.6 to 293
Treated home textiles 3.8 to 438
Treated non-woven medical garments 46 to 369
Industrial floor wax and wax removers 7.5 to 44.8
Stone, tile, and wood sealants 477 to 3720
Membranes for apparel 0.1 to 2.5 ng/cm2
Food contact paper ND (<1.5) to 4640
Dental floss/tape ND (<1.5) to 96.7
Thread sealant tape ND (<1.5) to 3490
PTFE cookware ND (<1.5) to 4.3

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