Today the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled against chemicals company Chemours Netherlands in its appeal against the identification of ‘GenX’ chemicals as a ‘substance of very high concern’ by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
GenX chemicals are commonly used in the manufacture of non-stick products, but are associated with major health concerns, being linked to tumours in rats and toxicity in the kidneys, liver, blood, and immune system .
They are highly persistent and mobile, posing environmental concerns and are almost impossible to eradicate from the environment once released. In 2019, Chemours – a spin-off of Teflon producer DuPont – challenged the ECHA decision before the EU General Court.
CHEM Trust alongside environmental law organisation ClientEarth had intervened in the original case in support of ECHA together with the Dutch government. In 2022, the court dismissed Chemours’ claim – however, the company decided to appeal the decision.
A universal PFAS restriction is already underway – meaning that GenX is likely to soon be banned. However, today’s decision to keep GenX on the list ensures obligations on chemical companies remain and signals that the market should already start using alternatives.
By once again ruling against Chemours, the court is helping to protect the health and wellbeing of citizens across Europe, the organisations said.
Dr Ninja Reineke, Head of Science at CHEM Trust said:
The high persistence of GenX chemicals in combination with its high mobility and toxic properties means that the impacts will last even after exposure has stopped. leaving a toxic legacy for decades to come. Labelling them as being of very high concern is only the first step, we urgently need a ban on all PFAS chemicals to prevent contamination of the environment and future generations.”
Client Earth chemicals lawyer Hélène Duguy said:
Today’s ruling will ensure that GenX chemicals remain labelled as a substance of very high concern in the EU. Chemours has again failed to show that the court made any mistakes in upholding the decision from the experts at the European Chemicals Agency.
Campaigners across Europe are working tirelessly to tackle chemical pollution and this ruling further helps their cause. As mounting evidence continues to show that forever chemicals are harmful, what more do we need to introduce a blanket ban on all PFAS?”
GenX was introduced by DuPont in 2009 as a substitute for the now banned chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, harmful to reproductive health, used notably in the production of Teflon among other products. The chemical was infamously the subject of the landmark US legal battle that brought DuPont to justice for dumping PFOA in a landfill in West Virginia. The waste is thought to have contaminated the area, killing off cattle and causing locals to fall sick with cancer.
- In 2019, ClientEarth and CHEM Trust intervened in support of the European Chemicals Agency and the Government of the Netherlands in its decision to identify GenX as a ‘substance of very high concern’, challenged by the company Chemours Netherlands before the EU Court of Justice.
- The General Court of the EU dismissed Chemours’ claim in a 2022 decision [Case T-636/19]. Chemours appealed that decision.
- Today, the Court of Justice of the EU has dismissed Chemours’ appeal.
GenX and PFAS
 Health impacts of GenX are summarised in ECHA’s supporting document Annex XV report (europa.eu)
 GenX chemicals are part of a larger family of chemicals known as PFAS or ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not degrade in the environment. Several PFAS are also very mobile, meaning they can quickly contaminate the environment and also travel long distances – having even been detected in Arctic seawater. The GenX technology was introduced by DuPont in 2009 as a replacement for another forever chemical called PFOA. A large epidemiological study in the US on the dangers of PFOA – which was undertaken following a massive lawsuit – found that it was linked to six major health issues: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. More information on GenX chemicals can be found at https://chemtrust.org/genx/ and https://chemtrust.org/genx-court-hearing/.
PFOA was banned globally in 2019 after decades of delay, despite compelling evidence to support a ban having been in the public domain for years. Studies have shown that almost everyone has chemicals from the PFAS family in their bodies, including children as human biomonitoring shows. GenX chemicals were presented as a safer alternative to PFOA. But they have been found to be similarly problematic.