EU considering retrenchment over PFAs ban: reports

The European Commission is poised to row back on previous pledges to outlaw a raft of potentially hazardous chemicals, including PFAs, according to a report in The Guardian.

The pledge to “ban the most harmful chemicals in consumer products, allowing their use only where essential” was a flagship component of the European green deal when it was launched in 2020.

It was expected that between 7-12k  hazardous substances would be prohibited from use in all saleable products in an update to the EU’s Reach regulation, including many “forever chemicals” – or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS refer to a group of thousands of useful substances that have been widely used in retail and industry that linger in the human body and nature, and bioaccumulate instead of breaking down.

However, exposure to PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked to health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.

According to the report, the EU’s executive is on the brink of a climbdown under heavy pressure from Europe’s chemical industry and rightwing political parties.

A leaked legislative document proposes three options that would restrict 1%, 10% or 50% of products containing hazardous chemicals currently on the market. The EU typically selects the middle option.

The leaked 77-page impact study forms part of a revision of targets in the EU’s Reach regulation covering chemicals law, which is dated 13 January 2023 and due to be launched by the end of this year. The text could be altered but officials say the options under consideration have not substantially changed.

The draft analysis estimates that health savings from chemical bans would outweigh costs to the industry by a factor of 10. Reduced payments for treating illnesses such as cancer and obesity would amount to EUR11 billion-EUR31 billion (£9.4 billion-£26.5 billion) a year, while adjustment costs to businesses would be in the range of EUR0.9 billion- EUR2.7 billion a year. 

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