PFAS Testing: an Active Area of Market Development for Environmental Labs

Commercial testing labs play an important role in administering specialized environmental testing, with clients ranging from governmental agencies to corporate entities looking to meet regulatory burdens, health standards and to improve their environmental footprint. During the pandemic, these labs faced hardships as public and corporate funding was curtailed, impacting the overall environmental testing market. Now, a resurgence in funding is creating new opportunities for environmental testing labs, as new hazards and renewed public concerns have increased demand for testing services.

Among the environmental hazards currently monitored by commercial testing labs are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which growing evidence suggests could cause a variety of adverse health effects, including decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, increased risk of certain types of cancers, and interference in the biological regulation of several compounds such as hormones and cholesterol. PFAS are found in a wide range of products and, due to their chemical properties, degrade very slowly, causing them to build up in the environment. These chemicals can be found in, among other things, food and food packaging, personal care products, and even the water supply. The prevalence of these compounds in so many frequently used products has led to a host of regulatory reforms, which in turn has driven demand for testing lab services.

SDi recently published the Market Opportunity: Environmental Testing Labs 2022 report, which examines the market for scientific instruments associated with approved methods to detect PFAS, as well as other environmental testing applications. The report examines the totality of the scientific instrument market for commercial environmental testing labs, providing growth guidance, current market sizes, and commentary on other environmental hazards and events affecting the market.

Testing for substances such as PFAS is one of the main purposes of commercial testing labs. These labs can provide testing using a variety of instrumental methods depending on the source of the sample being tested and the type of analyte being targetted. Some tests look for the simple presence of the chemicals, while other research-based testing examines the characteristics of the chemicals and their effects. Commercial labs will often cite regulation agencies for their tests, in order to comply with the standards set by those agencies.

In the United States, the EPA has proposed a hazardous substance designation for PFOA and PFOS, the two most widely used types of PFAS. Such an action would increase regulations and accountability for these chemicals and would provide a boon for commercial testing labs that have or acquire the resources to monitor them. The agency has also begun regulating PFAS-related compounds in fire extinguisher foam. In Europe, PFOS derivatives have been banned since 2009 via the Stockholm Convention. The convention also advocates the global elimination of PFOAs and related compounds, with more variations of PFAS expected to come under regulation, with additional restrictions expected in 2023.

Other industrialized economies have also imposed restrictions on PFOS and PFOA containing products. In China, the National Development and Reform Commission enacted the “Industrial Recon-structuring Guide Directory”, which restricts the production of PFOS and PFOA, while simultaneously promoting alternatives in research. Further developments occurred in 2014, when the country banned production, transportation, applications, imports, and exports of PFOS and related salts, apart from specific exemptions. In Japan, the government has conducted monitoring of PFOS since 2009.

The broad nature of the response and anticipated regulatory activity have generated increased funding for the monitoring of PFAS, creating increased demand for PFAS testing and consequent demand for PFAS approved methods and associated devices.