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In pans, outdoor clothing or cookware: Germany wants to ban "eternal chemicals" in the EU


They repel water and fat and are found in many everyday objects: However, so-called PFAS also accumulate in the environment and can impair health. Replacing the fabrics will take time.

Enlarge image

Pan (symbol image): PFAS are suspected of being carcinogenic

Photo: Maryna Terletska/Getty Images

Together with Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the federal government wants to ban around 10,000 so-called PFAS chemicals in the EU.

The countries have submitted a proposal to the EU chemicals agency Echa.

It aims to reduce PFAS emissions into the environment and make products and processes safer for people, says a statement from Echa.

Without a restriction, negative effects on human health and the environment are to be expected.

"Today we in the EU have reached an important milestone in putting a stop to the increasing environmental pollution caused by a particularly problematic group of chemicals," said Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) when presenting the proposal.

Germany will get involved in the forthcoming process at EU level.

Partially too high values ​​​​in children and adolescents

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl compounds.

This is a group of several thousand individual chemicals that accumulate in the body and in the environment over a long period of time.

Among other things, they are suspected of impairing the function of the liver or thyroid gland and of being able to cause cancer.

In an investigation by the Federal Environment Agency last year, PFAS were found in the blood of children and adolescents, sometimes in excessive amounts.

In up to a quarter of the young people, the concentration in the body was so high that "health effects can no longer be ruled out with sufficient certainty," it said.

The fabrics are used, for example, in coated pans, outdoor clothing and cookware.

They are also found in shampoos and pizza boxes.

Once in the environment, the chemical substances are hardly broken down.

That is why they are also referred to as »eternal chemicals«.

It could be years before it is banned

According to Echa, if the proposal goes through, it would be one of the largest chemical bans in Europe.

Companies would be forced to find alternatives for around 10,000 PFAS.

However, it is expected that it will be years before such a ban comes into force.

At Echa, the Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) will first assess whether a PFAS ban is compatible with the EU Chemicals Regulation (REACH).

Then there will be a scientific assessment and consultation with industry.

The Echa said the two committees could take longer than the usual 12 months to complete their assessment.

The European Commission and the EU member states then decide.

A decision is currently expected in 2025.

According to the draft proposal, companies would then have between 18 months and 12 years to introduce alternative substances, depending on availability.

"In many cases there are no such alternatives at present, and in some there may never be," the countries said.

Companies should therefore start looking for replacements now.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2023-02-07

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