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French authorities have today released the country’s first action plan specifically dedicated to PFAS, acknowledging the severe consequences that these ‘forever chemicals’ have on people’s health and the environment and the urgent need to reduce production [1]. The national action plan comes just days after the national authorities of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden submitted a proposal to the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for a EU-wide restriction on the production and uses of PFAS, which will officially kick off the restriction development process [2].

“The first French action plan on PFAS illustrates the ever growing public and political concerns about our ubiquitous exposure to forever chemicals and their harmful consequences on our health and the environment. While this initiative is welcome, its limitations in terms of health and environment monitoring as well as effective standard setting are yet another reminder of the urgent need of a comprehensive EU-wide approach to cut PFAS emissions at the source and related exposures across borders,” explains Natacha Cingotti, Health and Chemicals Programme Lead at HEAL. 

HEAL welcomes EU and national initiatives to regulate the production and numerous uses of PFAS. However, overdue regulation will not magically erase years of pollution, for which  local communities pay the health and societal price while polluters mostly evade their responsibilities [3]. Public initiatives to clean up contaminated areas, keep polluters legally and financially accountable, and implement adequate health and environmental monitoring are urgently needed and must be prioritised by national authorities across Europe [4]. 

“We urge national authorities to support the development of a comprehensive and protective EU-wide restriction proposal on the production and uses of all PFAS, while prioritising clean-up and remedial initiatives, keeping polluters financially and legally accountable across Europe”, concludes Natacha Cingotti.  

The widespread use of PFAS has created an irreversible threat to health and the environment. Exposure to forever chemicals has been associated with kidney and testicular cancer, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, thyroid disease, liver damage, lower birth weight and size, immune effects and hormone disruption [5]. 

PFAS also accumulate and persist in our environment, with the ability for long-range transport far from the emission points. The chemicals have been detected in air, soil, plants and animals across Europe. The production and use of PFAS have been the main sources of environmental contamination linked to these chemicals. Emissions into the environment take place via wastewater release and emissions into the air, which also contaminate the soil and water.

Contact:

Ivonne Leenen, Senior Communications Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), ivonne@env-health.org 

Notes:

  1. https://www.ecologie.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/22261_Plan-PFAS.pdf 
  2. The national authorities of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden submitted a proposal to ECHA to restrict per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) under REACH, the European Union’s (EU) chemicals regulation, on 13 January 2023. ECHA will publish the detailed proposal, one of the broadest in the EU’s history, on 7 February 2023. https://echa.europa.eu/-/echa-receives-pfass-restriction-proposal-from-five-national-authorities 
  3. See for example https://banpfasmanifesto.org/en/#id.b8d08v3l13d5, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sajRQ1ySmTywHYuEYVWQpqbUNJhWkk3A/view, https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.env-health.org/the-forever-chemicals-that-are-harming-our-health-pfas/&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1673970251244397&usg=AOvVaw10QKQcw0tNZXuqL_07pqJ3 and https://www.env-health.org/civil-society-groups-call-on-belgian-federal-governments-involvement-to-guarantee-action-to-clean-up-and-remediate-pfas-pollution-around-antwerp-monitor-consequences-and-guarantee-accountability/.
  4. HEAL is one of the co-initiators of the civil society Ban PFAS manifesto, which has been endorsed by over 100 groups worldwide and details specific recommendations for action at international, European and national levels https://banpfasmanifesto.org
  5. Scientific statements and resources on PFAS contamination include: 

Please also see the reaction from HEAL member Générations Futures (in French): https://www.generations-futures.fr/actualites/plan-action-pfas/