EU set to ban all PFAS 'forever chemicals' in new strategy

In a newly released Chemicals Strategy the EU Commission is set to ban all PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ from non-essential use. Will this pave the wave for the UK government to follow suit?

In October 2020, the EU commission released its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability as part of its commitments in the European Green Deal. The strategy strives to achieve an environment where “chemicals are produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society including achieving the green and digital transition, while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations”.

The strategy has committed to a long list of actions to tackle the problems posed by chemicals of concern. One of the biggest changes is that they will be taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to the way chemicals will be regulated. The EU commission is committing to ban by default the use of entire groups of certain, very hazardous chemicals, in consumer products unless their use is absolutely essential for society.

A key section of the strategy, for MCS, covers the chemical family PFAS (per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) of which there are over 4000 different chemicals. They are used in everything from cosmetics to waterproof clothing to non-stick cookware. MCS are concerned about these so-called ‘forever chemicals’ because of their extremely high persistence in the environment, meaning they will build up over time and be around for generations. They have also been shown to impact the immune, blood, liver and kidney function in marine mammals such as bottlenose dolphins. The EU commission has set out to ban all PFAS as a group from all non-essential uses as well as develop methods for rectifying PFAS contamination in the environment.

Francesca Bevan our chemicals expert said, “MCS has been calling for PFAS to be banned from all non-essential uses in the UK so we were thrilled to hear that the EU is taking the first step and we hope that it will pave the way for a UK ban and beyond.”

The UK is due to publish their own Chemicals Strategy which will be their vision document as part of the new UK Chemicals Framework, for when we leave the EU. This EU Chemicals Strategy for sustainability is a huge step forward for chemical regulation and we hope that the UK will be equally or more ambitious in their regulation of chemicals going forward.

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