CHEM Trust is joining health and environment UK NGOs calling on the UK Governments to urgently ban the use of all ‘forever chemicals’, PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances). It is the only way to prevent the continual pollution of the UK environment with the most persistent human-made chemicals known to date, and protect current and future generations from the impact of PFAS pollution.
We are inviting other UK NGOs to support our call for action by adding their name to our joint statement*.
In our statement we emphasise that PFAS are accumulating in our bodies and those of our children, and that PFAS exposure poses an immediate threat to human health. We also stress that PFAS pollution is fuelling the biodiversity crisis and represents a threat to drinking water sources in the UK. Finally, whilst PFAS-free solutions already exist, PFAS continue to be added unnecessarily to many consumer products, and the presence of PFAS in products creates a barrier to the circular economy and a serious waste problem.
Phasing out all unnecessary uses of PFAS is the most efficient way to prevent further pollution. A recent report from the UK Water Industry Research concluded that “source control must be seen as the most important way of reducing PFAS into the environment”, stressing that removing PFAS from water would require “an investment of tens of billions of pounds”.
All evidence points towards not delaying action on PFAS
Scientists have warned that the planetary boundary for chemical pollution has largely been exceeded and have urged immediate action to reduce the production and release of novel entities, such as human-made chemicals and plastics. It is therefore vital that we do not delay measures to address the growing and persistent problem of PFAS. The extreme persistence of all PFAS, and the irreversibility of global PFAS contamination, has already created a toxic legacy, the burden of which will be felt for generations to come. A recent report from the Environment Agency (EA) suggests that global PFAS contamination could take hundreds of years to reverse after emissions stop (based on modelling of two highly mobile PFAS, GenX and PFHxA).
PFAS must be banned as a group to protect current and future generations
With over 5,000 PFAS compounds identified (and the list is continually growing), and safety data available for only a handful, it is impossible to perform a full risk assessment for each individual substance. We cannot allow PFAS to continue accumulating in our bodies and the natural environment while we wait decades for research to catch up. Similarly, we cannot continue to regulate chemicals one by one. This has led to a never-ending cycle of regrettable substitution, with PFAS that have been banned being replaced with other very similar chemicals from the PFAS group. Such an inefficient approach to chemical regulation severely undermines genuine progress towards safe and sustainable alternatives. All PFAS must be regulated at once, as one group.
As NGOs representing public interests across health and environment, we strongly urge the UK Government to implement stringent, group-based legislation to eliminate all unnecessary sources of these harmful chemicals, and to drive innovation towards safer and greener alternatives.
Dr Julie Schneider, CHEM Trust campaigner said:
“PFAS are the most persistent human-made group of chemicals. Any emission adds to the toxic load burdening our environment and increases the background level of exposure experienced by both people and wildlife. We must turn off the tap now before more irreversible impacts take place, such as losing precious, clean drinking water sources. The most efficient way to do this is by banning all PFAS now and ensuring zero emissions for a limited number of uses which are deemed essential for society. The fewer uses permitted, the easier it will be to manage PFAS at every stage of their life cycle.”
In 2021, the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments tasked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and EA to perform a regulatory management options analysis (RMOA) on PFAS, to assess how to best manage any identified risks related to PFAS. The conclusions of the RMOA should be published in the summer 2022. CHEM Trust and partner NGOs have submitted the following recommendations:
CHEM Trust and partner NGOs are calling on the UK Government to:
1. Restrict the production and use of ALL PFAS as one group by 2025, with the following recommendations and exemptions:
- 1.a Take immediate action to phase out PFAS where suitable alternatives are already in regular use across the UK market (e.g. in food packaging).
- 1.b Take immediate action to prevent products containing high levels of PFAS being marketed as ‘compostable’.
- 1.c Grant time-limited exemptions (with caveats, see points 2a-c below) where the continued use of PFAS has been proved to be essential for the health, safety or functioning of society, AND where no suitable alternative currently exists.
2. Where an exemption for continued use is granted the following conditions must apply:
- 2.a Stringent risk-management requirements must be in place to ensure zero-emissions to the environment at all stages of the life-cycle.
- 2.b Regular reassessment should be carried out to ensure the conditions of the exemption remain valid.
- 2.c Exemptions should be time-limited, ensuring a full phase-out by 2035.
3. Ensure sufficient funding and support is available to drive research and innovation towards safe and sustainable PFAS alternatives.
4. Submit a proposal to the Stockholm Convention for global elimination of ALL PFAS.
Read our full statement here: https://www.pfasfree.org.uk/NGO-joint-statement-on-PFAS
*If you represent an NGO and wish to support the joint statement, please send an organisational logo to firstname.lastname@example.org