The European Union is considering a proposal to ban PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, reports Reuters.
Awareness about PFAS contamination has grown in recent years and efforts to address it are underway in many countries. Assessing the hazards of these substances has been complex, including information about their toxicity and their presence in the environment. Extensive research efforts have been put into those tasks, as well as how to remove them from contaminated soil and water, and what levels should be a concern for human and environmental health.
Preventing further discharges into the environment is an obvious step to address PFAS pollution, precisely because of their ubiquitous presence and high persistence in the environment and humans, and because they are difficult to remove once released. However, they are widely used in consumer products and industrial applications: phasing them out is controversial, and there are no alternatives in some cases.
Five European countries, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden prepared a PFAS restriction proposal based on the need for EU-wide regulatory measures to address the “uncontrolled risk from the use of PFAS” in Europe. The proposal “aims to reduce PFAS emissions into the environment and make products and processes safer for people”, according to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The proposal is for a broad group restriction, affecting roughly 10,000 PFAS, and includes a ban of manufacture, placing on the market and use of PFAS as such, as a constituent in other substances or in mixtures, as well as in articles, above a set concentration limit. It contemplates a transition period of 18 months after entry into force, and time-limited derogations for specific uses of up to 12 years, depending on the availability of alternatives.
A group of companies that make and use PFAS, FPP4EU, has said that the restrictions would have a "huge impact" on products frequently used and will discuss exemptions during public consultations. Jonathan Crozier, the group’s Advocacy and Communications Chairman, said "FPP4EU’s main concern is that the restriction proposal may still lead to disruptions of certain value chains and eventually eliminate some key applications".
“This landmark proposal by the five authorities supports the ambitions of the EU’s Chemicals Strategy and the Zero Pollution action plan”, said ECHA’s Director for Risk Assessment, Peter van der Zand. The ECHA’s scientific committees will evaluate their proposal, including a six-month open consultation period, planned to start on March 22nd. The assessment will consider the proposed restriction in terms of how it reduces the risks to human and environmental health, as well as its socio-economic impacts. The resulting opinions will be sent to the European Commission to decide on it together with the Member States. The Decision is expected to enter into force in 2025, with the restriction becoming effective in 2026 or 2027.