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EU Wants More Chips—but Less PFAS

The European Union is finding itself in a self-made catch-22 where semiconductors are concerned, POLITICO Pro (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “Worried about ratcheting tensions between Washington and Beijing over control of critical supply chains, the EU is looking to boost its own production capacity to capture at least 20 percent of the microchips market by 2030—up from 9 percent now. But a proposal by five EU countries to phase out … substances known as ‘forever chemicals’ could collide with those plans.”

  • That’s because a wide range of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—sometimes called “forever chemicals” owing to the long time they take to break down in the environment—are crucial for the production of chips.
  • In a proposal to the European Chemicals Agency earlier this year (to which the NAM responded) Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands pushed for the bloc to outlaw PFAS in 12 years.
  • In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first federal limits on PFAS in March, when it put forth maximum allowable levels of two specific chemicals in public drinking water.  

Why it’s important: “PFAS are a diverse group of chemicals that we rely on daily and make modern life possible,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris.

  • “PFAS are necessary to a range of essential items, including modern infrastructure; critical energy production, usage and storage; medical devices; semiconductors; and items necessary for national defense.”
  • “For many critical technologies, there are no current alternatives for PFAS, and in some sectors, there may never be. Any regulation should recognize the criticality of PFAS substances and provide feasible solutions and alternatives, including exemptions where necessary.”

What’s next: European industry groups are pushing for a longer exemption period.

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