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IPEN

A Toxics-Free Future

drinking water

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.

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.

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