The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) databases contain more than 2,000 individual poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are on the EU market. The OECD identified almost 5,000 PFAS and a recent study from ETH of Zurich found more than 200 specific uses for 1,400 PFAS.
The EU plans to ban all PFAS as a group for all uses, except when the use is essential for society. In the session, we will debate questions like: How will the EU make this happen? Where and how is PFAS polluting our environment? How will we substitute PFAS in products? Is it a problem that PFAS are found in our blood? Can we do something about PFAS in the environment?
PFAS are used in a wide variety of consumer products and industrial applications because of their unique chemical and physical properties, including oil and water repellence, temperature and chemical resistance, and surfactant properties. PFAS are used in firefighting foams, non-stick metal coatings for frying pans, paper food packaging, creams and cosmetics, textiles for furniture and outdoor clothing, paints and photography, chrome plating, pesticides and pharmaceuticals.
PFAS are ubiquitous in the aquatic environment and organisms across Europe, and have been detected in air, soil, plants and in people. They hardly degrade in the environment. Areas around industrial production, manufacturing and application sites have been found to be particularly contaminated by PFAS. This has led to contaminated drinking water around factories in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, and around airports and military bases in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The total number of sites potentially emitting PFAS is estimated to be in the order of 100,000 in Europe.
- Chris Burns, Burnstorm Communications