Royal Society of Chemistry calls for stricter regulation of PFAs in UK

In an indication of the growing awareness of the possible damaging health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) urged the government to toughen regulations and introduce stricter limits on levels, in line with other countries.

PFAs have been widely used for decades in products that have non-stick and waterproof properties, with considerable efficacy, but in high doses PFAs, known as ‘forever chemicals’, have been linked to serious health concerns including cancer and fertility issues.

The UK government said current safety standards were “exceptionally high”.

Currently in the UK, water companies are required to test for 47 different types of PFAS and if levels considered high-risk by the UK’s drinking water inspectorate are reached it should not be used for drinking purposes – though this is a guidance and not a legal requirement.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) said that this still exposes people to levels considered medium-risk and does not take into account the thousands of other types of PFAS.

The RSC is proposing that the acceptable levels are reduced 10-fold, and that all PFAS are tested for. This would bring the UK closer in line with new tighter limits in the US and tougher limits coming into effect next year in the EU.

Using data from the open-access Forever Chemicals mapping project, the RSC estimates that a third of water courses – not final drinking water – in England and Wales have medium-risk levels of PFAS, and less than 5% qualify as high-risk.