HomeSafetyPFAS, emerging risks on the alternative substance GenX

PFAS, emerging risks on the alternative substance GenX

GenX, one of the chemicals introduced as a 'safe' alternative to PFAS - 'per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances', the deadly 'forever chemicals' (1,2) - reveals equally serious emerging risks for human health and the environment. (3)

Environmental and health disasters continue, in the European Union as elsewhere, in the still vain wait for a drastic reform of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation.

1) PFAS, environment and human health. Premise

PFAS are synthetic toxic chemical substances, not present in nature, widely used in numerous industrial applications for the production of plastics, including food packaging (4), non-stick coatings (5,6), fire-fighting foams. Exposure to these substances and related molecules is very problematic since they persist in the human body as well as in the environment. And their accumulation in human tissues is related to endocrine interference, physiological imbalances, genotoxicity, carcinogenesis (7,8).

2) GenX, emerging risks

The alternative introduced in 2009 to replace traditional PFAS such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), it in turn belongs to the PFAS family, although still unregulated.

'Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid', trade name GenX, is a substance already used in the production of non-stick coatings and various other applications, as well as being a by-product of some industrial processes.

Recent studies However, scientific studies highlight the lack of information on the safety of GenX, which has already been observed to increase the production of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), with induction of oxidative stress, possible cellular damage and contribution to the development of various diseases. Animal testing also shows serious emerging risks, such as:

– neurotoxicity (Wu et al., 2023), (9)
– hepatotoxicity, genotoxicity, carcinogenicity (Robarts et al., 2022). (10) GenX appears to be able to induce apoptosis in human liver cells, a process associated with several pathologies, including tumors (Yoo et al., 2021), (11)

Genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, nephrotoxicity and other correlations have already been established in the extensive scientific bibliography on PFAS. (12)

3) USA, risk assessment on GenX

Risk assessment on GenX, also detected in drinking water sources, (13) was recently decided by the EPA - Environmental Protection Agency, USA - which ordered toxicity tests on one of its essential components (HFPO-DAF). (14)

"We still don't know enough about the dangers that many PFAS could pose to human health. We are using all the tools at our disposal to rapidly collect data on these substances, so that we can better understand the potential impacts of PFAS on the environment and human health and take all necessary measures to address them” (Michal Freedhoff, EPA). (15)

4) Italy, the PFAS and GenX disaster in Veneto

The environmental disaster and healthcare related to PFAS contamination in the Veneto Region, Italy (16,17), is among other things extended to the management of hazardous chemical waste containing GenX.

'Seven inconvenient truths on GenX', a Greenpeace report (2018), indicates that the person primarily responsible for the spills of these substances into the waters, the Miteni company of Trissino:

– after having received authorization from the Veneto Region for the treatment of dangerous chemical waste,

– between 2014 and 2017 it would have regularly imported up to 100 t/year of materials containing GenX from the Netherlands, in particular from the Du Pont chemical industry (now Chemours). (18)

PFAS pollution graphic representation
Figure 1. Graphic representation of PFAS pollution [Source: NCDHHS]

5) REACH, the missing reform

The European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen had begun with promises of drastic reforms, in the European Green Deal (2019), which would also have entailed the drastic restriction on the use of 7-12.000 toxic chemicals starting from PFAS, bisphenols and phthalates (19,20,21, XNUMX).

The only mini-reform of the REACH regulation registered so far in the Official Journal, however, concerns microplastics, with large exemptions and transitional rules lasting over ten years. (22)

The proposal The reform of the REACH regulation relating to the toxic substances under consideration is therefore expected by the end of 2023, so that its political examination will be postponed to the next legislature, with another year's delay. And its contents, according to leaks and information collected by The Guardian, will probably be far from the current needs of public health protection. (23)

Dario Dongo and Gabriele Sapienza


(1) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo, PFAS in rainwater and food, a global ban is urgently needed, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.8.22

(2) Marta singed, PFAS, go to the limits in meat, fish, eggs and other foods of animal origin, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.1.23

(3) Kancharla, Samhitha, et al. GenX in Water: Interactions and Self-Assembly. Journal of Hazardous Materials, vol. 428, 15 Apr. 2022, p. 128137,

(4) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo, Toxic chemicals in disposable tableware and packaging. Survey on PFAS in the EU, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.5.21

(5) Dario Dongo, Luca Foltran, PFAS, ban in Denmark on MOCAs in paper and cardboard, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.9.19

(6) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei, Food Contaminants Regulation (EU) No 2023/915, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.7.23

(7) Alberto Mantovani, Chemicals and decreased immune response, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.4.21

(8) De Toni L, Di Nisio A, Rocca MS, Pedrucci F, Garolla A, Dall'Acqua S, Guidolin D, Ferlin A, Foresta C., Comparative Evaluation of the Effects of Legacy and New Generation Perfluoralkyl Substances (PFAS) on Thyroid Cells In Vitro. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Jun 23;13:915096. doi: 10.3389 / fendo.2022.915096. PMID: 35813651; PMCID: PMC9259843.

(9) Wu S, Xie J, Zhao H, Sanchez O, Zhao X, Freeman JL, Yuan C. Pre-differentiation GenX exposure induced neurotoxicity in human dopaminergic-like neurons. Chemosphere. 2023 Aug;332:138900. doi: 10.1016 / j.chemosphere.2023.138900

(10) Robarts DR, Venneman KK, Gunewardena S, Apte U. GenX induces fibroinflammatory gene expression in primary human hepatocytes. Toxicology. 2022 Jul;477:153259. doi:

(11) Hee Joon Yoo, Min Cheol Pyo, Yoonjin Park, Bo Yong Kim, Kwang-Won Lee, Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (GenX) exposure induces apoptosis in HepG2 cells, Heliyon, Volume 7, Issue 11, 2021, e08272, ISSN 2405-8440,

(12) Dario Dongo. PFAS extension. The restriction on the use of forever chemicals in the EU is being examined by ECHA, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.2.23

(13) NCDHHS, GenX in the Lower Cape Fear River basin, 2022

(14) EPA, Drinking Water Health Advisories for GenX Chemicals and PFBS, 2023,

(15) Britt E. Erickson. US EPA orders toxicity tests on PFAS used in GenX. C&en news. 23.8.23

(16) Dario Dongo. Veneto. No PFAS Moms publish the list of contaminated foods. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(17) Dario Dongo. Human rights and pesticides, PFAS, hazardous waste. OHCHR audit in Italy, GIFT, (Great Italian Food Trade) 1.1.22.

(18) Seven inconvenient truths about GenX. Greenpeace. 13.7.18

(19) Dario Dongo. European Green Deal, the new strategy in the EU. Egalité. 13.12.19

(20) European Commission. Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy

(21) Marta Strinati. Dangerous chemistry, the European Commission's Restrictions Roadmap. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(22) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Microplastics, the first restrictions in the Old Continent in a mini-reform of the REACH regulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(23) Arthur Nelsen. EU to drop ban of hazardous chemicals after industry pressure. The Guardian. 11.7.23

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