Researchers at the Department of Environmental Science welcome the proposal from Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Norway to ban a majority of PFAS-substances from products being used and sold within the European Union. We encourage ECHA, the European Chemical Agency, to take the proposal forward to the European Commission without diluting its scope or ambition.
PFAS is a collective name that stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This group of chemicals are all anthropogenic and are known to be very persistent in the environment. Once released to the environment, many PFAS are known to have negative effects on the environment and human health. All around the world PFAS occur in rainwater at levels exceeding health advisory levels. Many PFAS are water-, grease- and dirt repellent and are hence found in an array of products and processes.
“We support the intention of regulating PFAS as a group. With more than 10 000 different PFAS in existence, it is not feasible to regulate them one by one. Also, history has taught us that as individual PFAS-are banned, they are often replaced by equally toxic and persistent substances, “says Ian Cousins, Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at Stockholm University.
“Besides addressing a highly pressing matter, this PFAS ban marks a new era in chemical regulation. The door to grouping of chemicals has been opened and hopefully, we will see continued use of this assessment method to further protect humans and the environment from hazardous chemicals, “says Christina Rúden, Professor at the Department of Environmental Science at Stockholm University.
We are glad to see that the PFAS ban proposal includes PFAS found in food packaging materials, non-stick coatings on pans, clothing, textiles and cosmetics. PFAS in these products either end up in our waste water, are worn off in nature or are spread from waste disposal facilities to the environment.
While we agree with the authors that there are currently a limited number of PFAS uses that could be considered “essential” for society and that can not be easily replaced (e.g. medical applications), we would like to emphasize that such derogation must be few and not last forever.
“We would like to stress that any continued use of PFAS in society needs to be responsibly managed so that these chemicals do not end up in the environment, ie through capture and containment strategies and effective waste treatment,” says Jon Benskin, Professor at the Department of Environmental Science at the Stockholm University.
We now encourage the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to take the proposal forward to the European Commission without diluting its scope and ambition. And that in the end European member states and parliament adopt an ambitious and efficient EU-wide ban on PFAS. Such a ban will not only safeguard the European environment and population, but will also have positive implications on a global scale.
For more information, please reach out to:
At the Department of Environmental Science at Stockholm University:
Ellen Bruno, Policy Analyst at Baltic Sea Science Center at Stockholm University