Haro on PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances. The European Chemicals Agency published a proposal on Tuesday 7 February to ban these ultra-toxic chemical compounds called “eternal pollutants” due to their extreme persistence in the environment. It opens the way to “one of the largest chemical bans ever imposed in Europe”according to the joint declaration of the five States at the origin of the proposal: Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The ban targets all PFAS, potentially more than 10,000 perfluorinated compounds. Massively used in industry since the 1950s for their non-stick, waterproof or heat-resistant properties, they are found in a multitude of everyday objects (Teflon pans, baking paper, food packaging, textiles, cosmetics, etc.) and industrial applications (fire-fighting foam, paints, pesticides). The “eternal pollutants” have contaminated all environments (water, air, soil) and the entire food chain. To the point that the entire French population is impregnated with PFAS according to a study published in 2019 by Public Health France.
Results that may raise fears of a major health scandal. PFAS are, in fact, suspected of having multiple deleterious effects, even at very low doses: cancers (kidney, testis), disturbances of the endocrine system (thyroid), increased cholesterol levels, reduced fertility or delayed of fetal development. Several studies have also shown that they interfere with the immune system and decrease the response to vaccination. In addition, the cost of exposure to PFAS is estimated to be between €52 and €84 billion each year in Europe.
“A strong act”
The project for a global ban on PFAS, which is supported by France, should be submitted to the Member States by the European Commission by 2025. A public consultation will open on March 22 under the aegis of the European Agency chemicals before a scientific evaluation phase. Two scenarios are on the table: a ban without derogation with a transition period of 18 months and a ban with derogations of up to 5 years or even 12 years, to allow manufacturers to find alternatives.
It is the second option which favors the States at the origin of the initiative. These derogations would not concern consumer goods but applications where alternatives are more difficult to find, such as protective equipment for firefighters or certain medical devices such as implants. Concerning the use of PFAS as an active substance in pesticides or biocides, the text refers the question of their inclusion to the specific regulations governing these substances.
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Source: Le Monde