In February 2019, under growing public and political pressure, the US EPA finally announced plans to address PFOS and PFOA, two toxic chemicals widespread in drinking water that are still unregulated in the US after decades of use. Instead of praise, the EPA announcement triggered anger after the public realized that the agency will conduct years of assessment before actually regulating them. US residents may be more incensed if they know that the rest of the world has already acted globally on these substances.
Governments warn against use of fluorinated alternatives in fire-fighting foams and enact strict PFOS prohibitions
Friday, 03 May 2019
(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.
In the run-up to the Stockholm Convention's 9th Conference of the Parties, IPEN has released its "Views of Stockholm Convention COP9." This document is a summary statement of IPEN views on issues that COP9 will be called upon to address, including POPs wastes, technical assistance and regional centres, rules of procedure, compliance, listing of dicofol and PFOA, illegal traffic, rules of procedure, evaluation of PFOS, and more.
The Views document can be read here and on IPEN's page for COP9, which has additional information about IPEN activities and publications related to the conference.