Germany wants to restrict harmful PFAS chemicals in EU

Germany wants to restrict harmful PFAS chemicals in EU

SThey repel dirt and water: The so-called PFAS chemicals are therefore used in products such as coated pans and jackets. However, they can be harmful to health and the environment. Now Germany wants to EU joined forces with Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to ban around 10,000 of these “forever chemicals”.

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) announced on Tuesday that they want to put a stop to the environmental pollution caused by these particularly problematic chemicals. Authorities estimate that if nothing is done about it, around 4.4 million tons of PFAS will end up in the environment over the next 30 years.

“Due to their chemical composition, PFAS do not degrade in the environment over very long periods of time,” said Lemke. Although this is often useful in practice, it also means that these chemicals can cause damage in nature and in the human body in the long term. It’s also about cancer.

Detected in the blood of children and adolescents

An investigation by the Federal Environment Agency last year found excessive amounts of PFAS in the blood of children and young people. In up to a quarter of the young people, the concentration in the body was so high that “health effects can no longer be ruled out with sufficient certainty,” it said.

In March, the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) wants to examine whether bans are compatible with EU law. If so, the proposal will be scientifically examined. This usually takes about a year. Then the EU Commission and the EU states decide on possible restrictions. This could happen in 2025.

According to ECHA, this would be one of the largest chemical bans in Europe. Companies would be forced to find alternatives. According to the proposal, they should be given between one and a half and twelve years. However, the proposed restriction covers only part of the substances. There is still no substitute for the chemicals in fire protection clothing or fire extinguishing foam, according to the Ministry of the Environment.

The Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) welcomed the proposal. “It is most welcome that the proposal is finally on the table,” said a spokesman. It was overdue and will now be read with the necessary skepticism. On the other hand, criticism came from the Association of the Chemical Industry. The association announced that the substances and uses should be considered and evaluated separately. “In our view, a blanket ban on the entire PFAS group of substances without a differentiated substance and application-specific assessment is not appropriate.” In addition to the effects on people and the environment, the positive effects and economic viability would also have to be considered for an assessment.

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