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More than 115 scientists sent a letter to the World Health Organization last week urging for a complete overhaul or withdrawal of the organisation’s draft drinking water guidelines for two of the most well-studied per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), namely PFOS and PFOA.

The letter details how WHO’s draft eschews calculating health-based standards, disregarding robust evidence for the harms of PFOS and PFOA. The letter also notes the lack of transparency about the draft’s authorship.

The scientists illustrate how the draft’s survey of scientific studies omits or obscures evidence of the links between PFOS and PFOA exposure and cancer, liver damage, increased cholesterol, and immune system harms, among others. For these outcomes, there are numerous strong human studies finding links with very low levels of exposure to these two and to other PFAS. These links are further supported by numerous animal and mechanistic studies.

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) alongside several of our members and partners from the environmental health community co-signed the letter, which was initiated by the Green Science Policy Institute.

Two years ago, the European Commission published its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability including a commitment to phase out PFAS chemicals in all non-essential uses. Last month, 77 civil society organisations launched the Ban PFAS manifesto reminding the Commission of this commitment, and demanding a ban on such chemicals in consumer products by 2025 and to have a complete ban by 2030.

Last year, HEAL teamed up with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) to call for immediate action against these “forever chemicals”, to protect reproductive health, fertility and human development. They jointly produced materials to help health professionals take action and contribute to advocacy and awareness-raising on PFAS. This includes:

  • A fact sheet, outlining exactly how PFAS chemicals affect women, pregnancy and human development, also in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC). Available in EnglishDutchFrenchItalianGerman and Spanish.

To find out more about our work on PFAS chemicals, visit our campaign page.

Click here to read the letter.