Today, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) joined a group of twenty organisations – led by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe – to send a Declaration to European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella.
An unprecedented cross-country media investigation on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination – The Forever Pollution Project – was released today, revealing that more than 17,000 sites are contaminated by ‘forever chemicals’ around Europe .
The investigation is the result of an in-depth investigative media collaboration between 18 media outlets across the continent. Crossing over 100 data sets and supported by numerous freedom of information requests, the investigators have built the first-ever map of PFAS pollution around Europe, uncovering the wide spread of PFAS pollution to a scale that was never precisely investigated and revealed before .
Highlights of the findings include the following:
- More than 17,000 sites around Europe are contaminated by PFAS, while another 21,000 sites are presumed to be contaminated due to ongoing or past industrial activities.
- 20 manufacturing facilities and 2,100 sites are qualified as hotspots, understood as locations where the contamination reaches levels that are considered hazardous for health.
- Over the last months, industry representatives have actively lobbied to undermine the EU-wide PFAS restriction proposal that is currently under development, with more than 100 actors (including companies, lobby firms and law firms) mobilising to try to influence the European and national institutions.
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) welcomes the important contribution of this cross-border investigative effort in uncovering the dramatic extent of PFAS pollution and calls on European institutions and national governments to use all their powers to act to stop and remedy contamination as soon as possible .
“This unprecedented investigation hits a raw nerve: it is today impossible to turn a blind eye to the reality of PFAS pollution, which concerns us all and will not be erased by a magic wand,” said Natacha Cingotti, HEAL’s Programme Lead on Health and Chemicals.
“We now urge European and national decision-makers to fully take their responsibilities by supporting a highly protective universal PFAS restriction and to take initiatives for clean-up, remediation, polluters’ accountability and adequate health monitoring at national level.”
Earlier this month, the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published the draft proposal for an EU-wide restriction on the production and uses of thousands of PFAS, starting a much needed process to restrict these ‘forever chemicals’ found in water, food, homes and nearly all of our bodies .
HEAL is one of the co-initiators of the civil society Ban PFAS manifesto, which has been endorsed by over 100 groups worldwide and demands a full ban on PFAS in consumer products by 2025 and in all uses by 2030 . The manifesto will be handed to the European Commission on 14th March.
Discover the Forever Pollution project here.
Discover the related map here.
Exposure to PFAS, a family of more than 4,700 widely-used synthetic chemicals, is a threat to our health and the environment. Increasing scientific evidence has linked exposure to PFAS to a number of serious health impacts such as different types of cancer, thyroid disease, immune dysfunction and hormone disruption .
The economic and societal costs resulting from PFAS exposure are enormous. According to a recent estimate from the Nordic Council of Ministers, the annual health costs related to exposure to these chemicals range between at least 52 and 84 billion euros for European countries alone.
Due to ever-increasing production and release, PFAS have accumulated in the environment over decades and they have been found everywhere, from rainwater, organic eggs to breastmilk. Scientists recently estimated that the scale of PFAS pollution has crossed planetary boundaries, which means that it is ubiquitous across the planet, almost irreversible, and that we are all exposed. .