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Beyond Forever Chemicals: Navigating PFAS in the Cleaning Industry

Apr 22, 2024

In the evolving landscape of environmental safety and product development across industries, attention on a group of chemicals known as PFAS—Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances—has increased over recent years. These chemicals, often termed "forever chemicals," are central to ongoing regulatory and scientific debates regarding their persistence in the environment and potential health risks.

As a leading manufacturer in the commercial cleaning industry, Betco® is committed to transparency and proactive communication on how we are handling PFAS amidst changing regulations.

Decoding PFAS: The Basics

PFAS encompass a vast, complex group of synthetic chemicals used globally since the 1950s. PFAS molecules have a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms that provide stain, water, and grease-resistant properties, making them a staple in various consumer products—from non-stick cookware and rain jackets to dental floss and shampoo. These strong carbon-fluorine bonds, however, also contribute to environmental persistence.

In the cleaning industry, PFAS have historically been used in formulations for their ability to enhance dirt repellence, wetting and spreading, aerosolization, film forming, and more. 

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PFAS Significance

While beneficial for product performance, the resilience of PFAS means they do not break down in the environment, leading to widespread accumulation and potential exposure risks to humans and wildlife. Studies have linked significant health issues to high levels of PFAS exposure, and this growing body of evidence has led to increased public and regulatory scrutiny.

As a result, the cleaning products industry faces the dual challenge of meeting performance expectations while minimizing ecological and health footprints.

Regulatory Environment

Regulation concerning PFAS is complex, with significant federal interest and varying regulations across states in place or proposed to restrict PFAS for categories such as drinking water, carpets, firefighting foams, and food packaging materials.

  • For instance, Minnesota has set legislation to restrict PFAS in cleaning products starting January 2025.
  • Other states like Maine and New York have implemented reporting requirements for products containing intentionally added PFAS.
  • Federally, the EPA is actively evaluating PFAS, aiming to set exposure limits and define risk categories.
  • A recent executive order has mandated the General Services Administration (GSA) to identify and substitute PFAS within five years.

For up-to-date information on state legislation, Bloomberg Industry Group offers a searchable activity tracker.

Our Commitment: Beyond Compliance

We pride ourselves on a proactive approach to PFAS.

  • No Intentional PFAS: Our entire product line has always been free from intentionally added PFAS.
  • Minimal Unintentional PFAS: 95% of our products have never contained ingredients with significant PFAS levels.
  • Proactive Reformulation: Of the small number of products with ingredients now known to contain notable amounts of PFAS, approximately half have been successfully reformulated to remove those ingredients. We are committed to reformulating the remaining products well ahead of regulatory deadlines.
  • Innovation: In specialized applications, finding suitable substitutes for PFAS remains a significant hurdle for the entire industry. We are at the forefront of this challenge, actively engaging with global chemical leaders to develop viable PFAS-free alternatives.
  • Third-Party Certifications: Many Betco products adhere to rigorous third-party standards like Safer Choice and Green Seal, and we are committed to building out this portfolio of products.

Engaging with Our Customers

We encourage our customers to engage with us for any PFAS-related inquiries by contacting their local Betco representative or filling out the form below. Our team is ready to provide detailed information and support, ensuring peace of mind regarding product safety and regulatory compliance.

As regulations evolve and more is understood about the impacts of PFAS, we will continue to lead by example, keeping our customers and the environment at the forefront of everything we do. By prioritizing safety, compliance, and transparency, we aim not just to meet but exceed industry standards and customer expectations.