Calls for Identification and monitoring of source sites
Thursday, 14 January 2021
(Prague, Czech Republic) - The large group of perfluorinated chemicals, collectively known as PFAS and often called "Forever Chemicals" because they are not easily broken down, have been found nearly everywhere researchers have looked for them — but particularly in food, water supplies, and soils. Czech Republic NGO Arnika recently studied sources in and around Prague, and found PFAS, its related chemicals, and additionally brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in nearly every sample. The study, Forever Chemicals Round and Round, made clear that identifying and continually monitoring PFAS and BFR sources is vital for community health and environmental sustainability.
Although regulation of these chemicals is increasing, the categories of perfluorinated and brominated chemicals are large. So as one chemical is identified and listed for restriction, another is adopted for use, all without understanding the underlying health effects. Ironically, many of these substances have known, safe alternatives. In response to studies showing PFAS in blood samples of firefighters, airports have been moving to safer fire-fighting foams, replacing fluorinated forms, which constitute roughly one-third of known PFAS contamination and which have been found in water ways near airports, including in Arnika's recent study.
“Perfluorinated substances and brominated flame retardants are not essential for the majority of applications and there are already safer alternatives on the market today. Therefore, their production should stop immediately. We call on both manufacturers and legislators to restrict the use of these toxic substances for all non-essential purposes. The deterioration in the quality of drinking water and the global environmental contamination caused by PFAS are irreversible,” says Jitka Strakova from Arnika.
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:
Non-combustion techniques for the destruction of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) waste such as PCBs, dioxins and brominated flame retardants are urgently needed to destroy the world's growing stockpile of materials contaminated with the most dangerous contaminants on earth. Using incineration and cement kilns to attempt to destroy POPs only leads to the generation of more unintentionally produced POPs (UPOPs) in their emissions and solid waste. This new technical briefing paper from IPEN describes non-combustion techniques that have been commercialised and proven for the destruction of POPs. They are also considered to be more readily applicable to developing countries due to their less intensive capital and infrastructure requirements.
Environmental health researchers released alarming evidence  today that toxic brominated flame retardants, hazardous chemicals from electronic waste that are known to disrupt thyroid function and cause neurological and attention deficits in children, are contaminating recycled plastics in consumer products across Europe.
The report release coincides with a crucial vote in the European Parliament to establish and re-evaluate recycling exemptions for POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) in waste and with the European Commission’s revision of POPs waste limits. Both decisions will determine whether toxic waste materials, such as e-waste containing brominated flame retardants, will be allowed in recycled plastics.
A new global survey finds that recycling plastics containing toxic flame retardant chemicals found in electronic waste results in contamination of the world’s best-selling toy along with other children’s products. Ironically, the chemical contaminants can damage the nervous system and reduce intellectual capacity but are found in Rubik’s Cubes – a puzzle toy designed to exercise the mind.