08 Debate

2021 Topic: Should PFAS be banned internationally?

Limited to the first 18 entries.


PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of man-made chemicals used in or byproducts of industrial processes. PFAS chemicals are a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals that are persistent and can accumulate in the environment and in our bodies. PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and includes, chemicals known as PFOS (perflourooctanesulfonate), PFOA (perflourooctanoic acid) and GenX.  GenX is a trademark name for a related synthetic chemical used as a substitute for PFOA which later was found to break down into PFAS. In use since the 1940s, PFAS are resistant to heat, oils, stains, grease, and water—properties that contribute to their persistence in the environment (USEPA).

Certain specific PFAS have been considered for regulation, some are authorized for certain specific uses, and some have been the subject of voluntary industrial phaseouts and stewardship efforts.  The question remains, however, whether or not this broad class of chemicals should also be fully banned.


Part 1 - Conduct general literature research on the issue:

  1. Prepare a five-page essay with citations (Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 12 pt.  The essay must conclude with an advocacy position answering the question of whether PFAS should be banned internationally.  Students must also submit two questions, one for a Pro position opponent and one for a Con position opponent, to ask the opposing team on Event Day.
  2. Prepare oral presentations on each side of the debate (YES, ban PFAS and NO, do not ban PFAS).  Students must be prepared to argue either side on Event Day.
  3. Optional:  Prepare ONE slide for each side of the debate (YES, NO) that can be displayed during your oral presentation.
  4. REQUIRED:  Submit your essay and the two questions for opposing sides (YES, NO) by MAY 15 (before Event Day!) for the judges to review beforehand and prepare questions on. 

The essay should address:

  • What are PFAS?
  • What are the chemical characteristics of PFAS?
  • How are PFAS formed and how have they been used commercially?
  • What are the environmental impacts of PFAS and what are the recent concerns?
  • Have PFAS been limited by government agencies and should they now be fully banned internationally, or not?

Part 2 - EVENT DAY

Each team must:

  1. Randomly be assigned either the YES or NO position by the judges.
  2. Present their assigned position (YES or NO) on the question in a 3 - 5 minute oral presentation, optionally with the ONE slide they prepared on that position
  3. The Judges will ask each team one question about this initial presentation.   Each team will take two minutes to address their question from the Judges.
  4. Each team will ask another team one question (previously submitted by their team) to be answered in one minute, after one minute of deliberation by the answering team.

Each team must have each member speak at least once during any of the aspects (initial or response to questions asked)  of the presentation.  The initial presentation can be done by one member or divided up into sections for different team members, not to exceed the total time as above.

The oral presentation and the submitted essay will be judged pursuant to the following rubric (1 to 5 points for each category):

  1. Clarity and organization
  2. Reasoning and creativity
  3. Use of supporting facts
  4. Reference material
  5. Persuasiveness