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.