We know that restrictions on hazardous chemicals work. They have repaired the ozone hole and reduced DDT levels in animals, people and the global environment.  The EU Restriction on PFAS is now our generation’s responsibility and duty to protect future generations from PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals.

The increasing, and largely unregulated, use of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) since the 1950s has resulted in widespread contamination of the Europe’s waterways, air and soil[1]and all EU citizens, including children, now have levels of these toxic ‘forever’ chemicals in their blood. The fact that all PFAS are extremely persistent or will transform into extremely persistent PFAS and remain in the environment for hundreds, if not thousands of years, makes this entire chemical class an urgent priority for restriction. That is why the EU published a comprehensive Restriction on PFAS with time-limited derogations of between 5 to 12 years for specific cases where PFAS-free alternatives are not yet readily available on the market.  

History shows that regulatory restrictions work. The discovery of the ozone layer hole in the 1980s resulted in the phase out of the production and use of harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and scientists now confirm the ozone hole is continuing to shrink and could fully repair by 2050.[2]  Likewise, when the pesticide DDT was acknowledged as a very persistent, mobile and toxic chemical, the EU achieved a total ban for all agricultural uses in 1982.[3]  Because of this, DDT concentrations in our environment have now greatly decreased.

The PFAS restriction, proposed by five EU member states and being assessed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), is now our generation’s opportunity to act. The EU Restriction on PFAS is designed to minimize further cross border PFAS building up in our environment and will help reduce associated health impacts to current and future generations. But just as producers of CFCs argued in the late 1970’s that alternatives to CFCs did not exist for refrigerators and air conditioners,[4] PFAS producers and downstream users are arguing now that no alternatives exist for certain applications in electronics, coatings and energy technology.

The PFAS restriction proposal has looked into existing alternatives for all the uses covered and proposes transitional periods for those that need more time to substitute to safer alternative chemicals or technologies.

We face an extraordinary contamination and growing health crisis from PFAS exposure. It is our generation’s responsibility to ensure the EU Restriction on PFAS, with its transition to PFAS-free substitutes, is moving forward swiftly and will be successfully adopted and enforced. 

[1] Revealed: The massive contamination of Europe by PFAS ‘forever chemicals’.

[2] The ozone layer is on the right path to recovery: Here’s how the world made it happen. World Economic Forum.  Sep 15, 2023.

[3] Presence of persistent chemicals in the human body results of Commissioner Wallstrom’s blood test. European Commission. MEMO/03/219. Bruxelles, 6 November 2003.

[4] American Chemical Society. Chlorofluorocarbons and Ozone Depletion. A National Historic Chemical Landmark.

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