IMO agrees to ban perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid from firefighting systems on board ships

Perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid is to be banned under IMO regulations
Perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid is to be banned under IMO regulations

The IMO’s Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) has finalized prohibition of perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid from fire-fighting systems on board ships.

This prohibition will protect the crew against exposure to dangerous substances that are used in fire-fighting systems and will minimize the negative consequences on the environment.

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) sub-committee on ship systems and equipment (SSE) met for the 8th session from 28 February to 4 March. It is important to recall that the use of this substance ashore has already been heavily restricted by the Stockholm convention.

What is perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid?

Perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid is part of a group of related chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS). This is also called perfluorochemicals (PFCs). This group of chemicals is commonly used in a wide range of industrial processes and is found in many consumer products. The substance is is toxic to humans, and there is growing evidence that long-chain PFAS could cause liver malfunction, disruptive effects on the immune and endocrine system, adverse neurobehavioral effects, testicular and kidney cancer, and other adverse effects. Due to its long-term persistent accumulation, humans, wildlife and the environment are continually exposed.

Studies have shown that, workers and people who live in in areas with high levels of perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid in drinking water can experience the following:
– increased cholesterol,
– cause pregnancy-induced hypertension,
– increased risk of thyroid disease,
– decreases antibody response to vaccines,
– decreased fertility,
– and can cause small decreases in birth weight.

It should be pointed out that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has classified this substance as having suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.

On ships, this chemical may be found in firefighting foam compounds. The IMO SSE 8 decided to prohibit the use of perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid from new ships from 1 January 2026 and to eliminate the substance from existing ships no later than five years from the date of this requirement coming into force.

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