Europeans are paving the way for a mass ban on PFAS

Haro on PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances.The European Chemicals Agency published a proposal on Tuesday 7 February to ban the “Eternal Pollutant” due to their extreme persistence in the opens the door to “One of the largest chemical bans ever seen in Europe”according to a joint statement by the five countries that initiated the proposal: Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

The ban targets all PFAS, potentially more than 10,000 perfluorinated compounds. Since the 1950s, they have been heavily used in industry due to their non-stick, water-resistant or heat-resistant properties, in a wide range of everyday items (PTFE pans, baking paper, food packaging, textiles, cosmetics, etc.) and industrial applications ( fire extinguishing foam, paint, insecticide). The “eternal pollutant” has polluted all environments (water, air, soil) and the entire food chain. According to a study published by the French Ministry of Public Health in 2019, the entire French population is infected with PFAS.

The results could raise concerns about a major health scandal. In fact, PFAS are suspected of having multiple harmful effects, even at very low doses: cancer (kidney cancer, testicular cancer), endocrine system disorders (thyroid), increased cholesterol levels, decreased fertility or delayed fetal development. Several studies have also shown that they interfere with the immune system and reduce the response to vaccinations. Furthermore, the annual cost of exposure to PFAS in Europe is estimated to be between EUR 5.2 and EUR 84 billion.

“A powerful act”

The European Commission should submit a French-backed project to ban PFAS globally to member states by 2025. A public consultation will take place on 22 March under the auspices of ECHA ahead of the scientific assessment phase. Two scenarios are on the table: a transitional period of 18 months with no derogation and a ban of up to 5 years Even a 12-year derogation ban to allow manufacturers to find alternatives.

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The second option favors the country launching the initiative. These derogations do not relate to consumer products, but to applications where it is more difficult to find substitutes, such as protective equipment for firefighters or certain medical devices, such as implants. With regard to the use of PFAS as active substances in pesticides or biocides, the issue of their inclusion in specific regulations governing these substances is addressed.

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