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PFAS

IPEN Press Release

PFHXs, Used as a Substitute for Banned PFOS and PFOA, Recommended for Global Ban

(Rome, Italy) An U.N. expert committee decided unanimously to recommend a complete global elimination for another toxic fluorinated “forever chemical.” Fluorinated chemicals are widespread pollutants threatening drinking water sources, public health and the occupational health of firefighters. They do not break down in the environment and accumulate in the bodies of wildlife and people. They are used in a wide variety of products, including firefighting foam, waterproofing of textiles, and food packaging, as well as other industrial and consumer applications. 

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.

Calls for Identification and monitoring of source sites

(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.

Contamination of water bodies with perfluorinated substances and brominated flame retardants in the Prague area

A study of flourinated and brominated chemicals in fish, water, and soil samples from locations in near Prague, Czech Republic, conducted by Arnika.

PFAS occur in more products than just firefighting foams.

Fluorinated firefighting foams were transitioned from long chain to short chain PFAS due to the US EPA Stewardship Program. "In 2006, EPA invited eight major leading companies in the PFAS industry to join in a global stewardship program."1 This change was initiated due to increasing concerns about PFAS contamination and health issues connected to PFAS.

Urgent action needed on highly persistent PFAS chemicals

IPEN presents the third in a series of papers prepared by an international panel of experts on PFAS chemicals. This paper, Perfluorohexane Sulfonate (PFHxS)— Socio-Economic Impact, Exposure, and the Precautionary Principle, offers unique insights about threats to drinking water sources, public health and the occupational health of firefighters due to the particular physico-chemical properties of PFHxS, including its greater mobility, hydrogeological fractionation, and long elimination half-life in people.

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