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A Toxics-Free Future

Contaminated Sites

Governments warn against use of fluorinated alternatives in fire-fighting foams and enact strict PFOS prohibitions

(Geneva, Switzerland): Governments at the 9thConference of the Parties (COP9) of the Stockholm Convention agreed to a global ban on PFOA – a chemical that does not break down and causes adverse health effects at background levels. The uses of PFOA and other fluorinated organic compounds (PFAS) are widespread across many industrial and domestic applications.  Fluorinated firefighting foams are a leading cause of water contamination with toxic chemicals that pollute breast milk and are associated with cancer, endocrine disruption, and harm to fetal development.

Unfortunately, governments also included a large number of unjustified five-year exemptions for PFOA use in semiconductor manufacturing, firefighting foams, textiles claimed to protect workers, photographic coatings for films, and medical devices. Surprisingly, China, European Union and Iran obtained additional wide-ranging exemptions for fluorinated polymers, medical textiles, electrical wires, and plastic accessories for car interior parts. All three countries participated in the evaluation process, but suddenly asked for the additional exemptions at the meeting. Even the fluorochemicals industry repeatedly opposed these additional exemption requests due to the wide availability of alternatives.

(Geneva, Switzerland): Industry fire-safety experts from the oil and gas and aviation sectors are joining with firefighter trade unions and representatives of Indigenous Peoples to urge governments to protect human health and the environment with a global ban on the toxic chemical, PFOA, and to reject loopholes for its use in firefighting foams. The use of PFOA and other fluorinated organic compounds (PFAS) is widespread across many industrial and domestic applications including textiles, food packaging, stain and oil resistant treatments, and industrial processes.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have received significant public and media attention in the US, EU, and Australia, in part due to their toxicity, extreme persistence, and documented water pollution. However, information about PFAS in other parts of the world is largely lacking and the information which is available is difficult to access.

Over the past few months, IPEN Participating Organizations in twelve Middle Eastern and Asian countries conducted surveys to explore possible PFAS uses and pollution sources, scientific studies and government actions, including under the Stockholm Convention. Countries covered include: Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Read PFAS Country Situation Reports from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam here.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30933768

Lee Bell ESD, IPEN's Mercury Policy Advisor, and Jindrich Petrlik RNDr., Chair of IPEN's Dioxin, PCBs and Waste Working Group and Director of Arnika's Toxics and Waste Programme, have contributed to a new paper that addresses POPs-contaminated sites and the need for stringent soil standards:

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