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‘Forever chemicals’ ban failing badly, according to study

Posted on the 22nd May 2023

Forver chemcials

Plans by the EU to ban around 7,000 ‘forever chemicals’ by 2030 have failed badly, according to a new report.

A year ago, the EU launched a roadmap to ban groups of toxic substances linked to environmental damage and serious illnesses such as cancers, hormonal disruption and reprotoxic disorders.

These included all bisphenols, the most dangerous flame retardants, and the increasingly controversial PFAS chemicals.

The restrictions roadmap was brought in as an interim measure to protect the public and nature while the European Commission finalizes an update to its complex Reach programme, which centrally compiles data on modern synthetic chemicals, and sets rules for their governance.

However, Reach has been delayed and, to date, the commission has banned just 14 chemical groups, of which only two appear watertight, according to a joint report by the green law group ClientEarth and the European Environmental Bureau.

A revised Reach regulation is still due by the end of the year, while the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) raised the prospect of new regulation of bisphenol A in food last month.

EFSA reduced its tolerable daily intake recommendation of the substance by a factor of 20,000, due to the risk of allergic lung inflammation and autoimmune disorders.

However, most uses of bisphenols look set to continue, with only five of the 148 bisphenols on the market facing restrictions. Campaigners also expect no let-up in contamination from toxic lead shot across Europe, because of a loophole in a commission proposal that allows its continued use for sport.

A possible ban on single-use nappies that contain dioxins, furans, formaldehyde and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was also withdrawn.

Hélène Duguy, ClientEarth’s law and policy adviser, said lagging action showed “the failure of the EU’s piecemeal approach to chemical bans.”

PFAS formulations accumulate in the natural environment where they take hundreds of years – or longer – to degrade.

They were used so ubiquitously over the last century that one US government study found them in the bloodstreams of almost all Americans, while a survey this year logged 17,000 contaminated sites in Europe - and 2,100 hotspots.

Related: Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in 100s of species

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