On 4th April 2023, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published the long awaited PFAS Risk Management Option Analysis (RMOA) written in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA). The RMOA makes a number of recommendations that the UK Government will follow as announced in its Plan For Water published on the same day.
CHEM Trust’s view
CHEM Trust welcomes the publication of the PFAS RMOA and the hard work of the EA and HSE in putting this together. They have gathered a lot of new, and valuable information regarding the uses of PFAS in Great Britain, but major knowledge gaps remain.
We also praise their efforts to identify risk management measures that would be feasible in the short to medium term to start stemming PFAS pollution with the shortest delay.
In particular, we welcome recommendations for PFAS restrictions via UK REACH, however we are concerned that these recommendations only apply to a narrow range of PFAS substances and PFAS uses. This won’t be enough.
Call for a comprehensive PFAS action plan for the UK
The ambition of Government should be a full phase out of all PFAS production and uses to protect people and nature. Civil society and scientists have been repeatedly calling for this. CHEM Trust and other NGOs are calling for a comprehensive PFAS action plan as part of the future UK Chemicals Strategy to achieve a PFAS-free economy in the UK in the next decade.
The action plan must set clear timelines for the phase out of PFAS uses in all sectors. We welcome the government announcement in its Plan For Water to start developing a UK REACH restriction proposal on PFAS in firefighting foams this year and “undertake further work to prepare for further restrictions on other uses of PFAS, including consumer products such as textiles, cleaning products, paints, and varnishes”. But it should not end there. All sectors and PFAS sources must be addressed driving the development of safe and sustainable alternatives.
The action plan must also include regulatory actions to protect people and wildlife from exposure to unsafe levels of PFAS from environmental sources (eg. food, water, air). Here we welcome the RMOA recommendation to develop statutory standards for PFAS in drinking water in England and Wales. However statutory standards for PFAS in food must also be set and environmental quality standards must be strengthened.
Finally, the action plan must include government actions to support innovation and the development of PFAS-free alternatives.
Dr Julie Schneider, PFAS campaigner at CHEM Trust, said:
“PFAS pollution has exceeded our planetary boundaries and is one of the biggest chemical threats of our time. The level of ambition of the UK Government must match the severity of the crisis. The RMOA is the first step along the road but falls far short of the comprehensive PFAS restriction that has been proposed by our neighbouring countries in Europe.”
- Press release from the HSE, 4 April 2023: Regulator’s report on “forever chemicals” published
- Page of the PFAS RMOA
- UK NGOs statement on PFAS, published in May 2022 and signed by 35 organisations: Case for urgent, group-based, regulation to prevent continued PFAS pollution in the UK environment