A new Hollywood film ‘Dark Waters’ highlights the dire reality of pollution from harmful PFAS chemicals and the urgent need for strong, protective legislation to protect human health and the environment.
PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are known as the ‘forever chemicals’ as they do not break down easily and will persist in the environment for decades. PFAS are used in a wide range of consumer products, including non-stick pans, cosmetics, waterproof clothing, grease-proof paper and cardboard food packaging. They have been linked to a number of health issues including reduced response to vaccines, certain cancers, and thyroid disease.
The film tells the real-life story of Rob Bilott, the lawyer who took on chemical company DuPont, after discovering the company was knowingly polluting drinking water with PFAS. Though the film portrays PFAS pollution in the US, it is also an issue across Europe and the UK, as CHEM Trust has highlighted in our recent briefing: “PFAS – the ‘forever chemicals’, Invisible threats from persistent chemicals.”
A considerable proportion of the European population are exposed to two PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) exceeding the tolerable weekly intake proposed by an expert committee of the European Food Standard Authority. Health costs related to PFAS exposure are estimated between €52 and €84 billion annually for all countries of the European Economic Area.
Events promoting the film, and action on PFAS, at EU & UK levels
Mark Ruffalo, Todd Haynes and Rob Bilott to visit the European Parliament
This week, actor Mark Ruffalo, who stars in the film, director Todd Haynes and the lawyer Rob Bilott are visiting the European Parliament to highlight PFAS pollution issues to EU Commissioners and Members of EU Parliament. CHEM Trust, along with Think-Film Impact Production, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and ChemSec, is supporting a screening of the film on the 4th February and an event at the European Parliament on the 5th.
- A joint press release from the NGOs supporting the events in Brussels is available here.
Rob Bilott to attend events in the UK Parliament
Rob Bilott will also attend an event in the UK Parliament on 6th February, hosted by Matthew Offord MP and featuring Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics. He will also take part in a panel discussion on 7th February alongside CHEM Trust’s Executive Director, Dr Michael Warhurst.
CHEM Trust recommendations for action on PFAS
There are over 4,000 chemicals in the PFAS family, but so far only 2 subgroups of PFAS have been banned globally under the Stockholm Convention. At this rate it will take over 40,000 years to regulate all PFAS chemicals. Moreover, the slow regulatory process for PFAS has already been responsible for allowing regrettable substitution, where one polluting PFAS is replaced by another.
CHEM Trust’s view is that:
- All PFAS should be restricted at once under the EU’s main chemical law REACH.
- Companies should immediately work to phase out PFAS chemicals, replacing them with safer, non-PFAS alternatives.
In December 2019, the Netherlands announced their intention to draft a REACH restriction proposal to ban all PFAS in non-essential uses and are now supported by Denmark, Luxemburg, Norway, Germany and Sweden. We call for all EU Member States, the European Commission and the EU chemicals agency ECHA to work together to make this restriction a reality as fast as possible.
Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust said:
“The EU must phase out all PFAS chemicals as soon as possible, banning the whole group to break the vicious circle of industry moving from one PFAS to the next.
In addition, the UK Government must commit to joining this phase-out of PFAS – Brexit should not be an excuse to delay strong action on these polluting forever chemicals“
- To learn more about PFAS, see our recent briefing: “PFAS – the ‘forever chemicals’, Invisible threats from persistent chemicals.”‘; the latest news & information about PFAS is on our PFAS web page.
- Dark Waters’ will be released in selected cinemas in Belgium and France on 26th February, in the UK on 28th February, and in Germany on 16th April. See the trailer here.