EU considers banning ‘permanent chemicals’ and urges alternatives

By: News Team

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The European Union began considering a proposal on Tuesday to ban substances known as PFAS or “permanent chemicals,” which could become the biggest regulation of the bloc’s chemical industry.

These substances have been used in tens of thousands of products, such as airplanes, cars, textiles, medical equipment and wind turbines, due to their long-term resistance to extreme temperatures and corrosion, but PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have also been linked to health risks such as cancer, hormonal dysfunction and weakening of the immune system. as well as environmental damage.

The five countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway – that have collaborated on the proposal said in a joint statement that, if approved, it would become “one of the largest chemical bans ever carried out in Europe”.

“A ban on PFAS would reduce the amounts of PFAS in the environment in the long term. It would also make products and processes safer for humans,” they added.

According to the draft proposal, companies will have between 18 months and 12 years to introduce alternative substances, depending on the application and availability of alternatives.

Among the PFAS manufacturers and users, who have formed a lobbying sub-group within the European chemical manufacturers’ association CEFIC, are BASF (ETR:BASFN), 3M (NYSE:MMM), Bayer (ETR:BAYGN), Solvay (EBR:SOLB), Merck KGaA and Synthomer.

“In many cases, such alternatives do not currently exist, and in some may never exist,” the five countries said in their statement, adding that companies must now start finding substitutes.

The nickname “permanent chemicals” (or “forever chemicals”) is due to their ability to accumulate in water and soils, since they do not break down as a result of an extremely strong bond between the carbon and fluorine atoms that characterizes them.

It will likely be years before the ban takes effect.

Within the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), two scientific committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for socio-economic analysis (SEAC) will now review whether the proposal complies with the wider EU chemicals regulation known as REACH, followed by a scientific assessment and consultation with industry.

ECHA has said the two committees may need more than the usual 12 months to complete their assessment. The European Commission and EU Member States will then decide on possible restrictions.

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