forever chemicals

EU to propose forever ban for forever chemicals

The European Union began debating a plan to outlaw frequently used, possibly dangerous substances known as PFAS or “forever chemicals”. If approved, this would be the EU’s most comprehensive regulation of the chemical sector.

Due to the compounds’ long-lasting resistance to severe temperatures and corrosion, they have been utilized in tens of thousands of products, including autos, textiles, medical equipment, wind turbines, and non-stick pans.

However, PFAS have also been connected to environmental harm and health hazards including cancer, hormone issues, weaker immune systems, and cancer.

Ban initiative of forever chemicals comes from five countries

The five nations working together on the proposal—Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and non-EU state Norway—stated in a joint statement on Tuesday that, if approved, it would result in one of the most comprehensive bans on chemical chemicals ever in Europe.

Long-term PFAS levels in the environment would decrease if there is PFAS ban. Additionally, they said, it would make procedures and products safer for people to use.

Depending on the availability of substitutes, enterprises will have between 18 months and 12 years after the ban goes into effect to offer alternatives for the more than 10,000 PFAS affected.

Manufacturers and users of PFAS, including BASF, 3M, Bayer, Solvay, Merck KGaA, and Teflon manufacturer Chemours, have created a lobbying subgroup under the European Chemical Makers’ Association CEFIC.

Businesses to invent alternatives to forever chemicals

The five governments stressed in their statement that many of these alternatives are now lacking and may never exist in some circumstances. They urged businesses to develop alternatives.

The document revealed that while paraffin wax is one of the simplest substitutes for waterproofing chemicals used in textiles, there are currently no alternatives available for specific medical devices like pacemakers.

The term “forever chemicals” refers to substances that can build up in water and soil because they do not disintegrate due to an unusually strong link between the atoms of fluorine and carbon.

Environmentalists: They are everywhere and make more harm than use

Audun Heggelund of the Norwegian Environment Agency claimed they are now traceable all over the world while speaking at a media briefing in Brussels.

He said that scientists found PFAS in polar bears in the Arctic, penguins in the Antarctic, and even rainwater in Tibet.

The FPP4EU coalition of 14 PFAS-producing and -using businesses said that the limitations would have a “major impact” on numerous items used on a daily basis and that the organization will highlight the necessity for specific exclusions in the public consultations.

There will be some exemptions

According to Jonathan Crozier, chairman of advocacy and communications at FPP4EU, the restriction proposal’s main concern is that it can still cause disruptions in some value chains and finally result in the abolition of some crucial applications.

A few medications, animal health products, crop protection chemicals, and disinfectants would be exempt from or benefit from so-called derogations, according to the dossier, because they already come under even tighter existing regulatory regimes.

The bad news: Forever chemicals last forever

Countries that submitted the dossier claimed that even if they put a ban, the molecules will continue to accumulate in the environment for many years since waste products will continue to shed them.

The BEUC, a European association of national consumer protection agencies, issued a statement in which it urged the EU to implement this ban as soon as feasible.

Two scientific committees within the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will now examine whether the proposal complies with broader EU chemical regulation known as REACH, followed by a scientific evaluation and industry consultation. These committees are responsible for risk assessment and socio-economic analysis.

The two committees may require more time than the customary 12 months to complete their evaluation, according to ECHA.

The European Commission and EU member states will decide on the final version which could take effect in 2026 or 2027.

The U.S. government also plans to ban some “forever chemicals”

Initiatives to limit PFAS are also in progress in other areas. The American government announced in August that it would propose classifying several chemicals as hazardous substances under the U.S. Superfund program.

The American industrial firm 3M Co. established a 2025 timetable for ceasing production of them as one of its corporate initiatives in December.

In December, 54 corporations received letters from investors controlling $8 trillion in assets pleading with them to stop using them.

According to the draft, the total yearly health expenses associated with PFAS exposure in Europe are approximately between 55.72 and 90.01 billion dollars or 52 to 84 billion euros.