Emerging chemical risks in Europe — PFAS

17 December 2019

Article: 53/5006

On 12 December 2019, The European Environment Agency (EEA) published a briefing, which presents an overview of the known and potential risks to human health and the environment in Europe posed by per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). These are a group of more than 4,700 man-made chemicals, the two most well-known of which are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These are used in a variety of consumer products and industrial applications because of their unique properties, for example, to increase oil and water repellence, reduce surface tension, or resist high temperatures and chemicals. Both people and the environment are exposed to a wide variety of these extremely persistent chemicals, many of which are known to be toxic.

The briefing warns that, due to the large number of PFAS, it is a difficult and time-consuming task to assess and manage risks for these substances individually, which may lead to widespread and irreversible pollution. People are mainly exposed to PFAS through drinking water, food and food packaging, dust, creams and cosmetics, PFAS-coated textiles or other consumer products. The briefing suggests that taking precautionary actions to limit non-essential uses and promoting the use of chemicals that are ‘safe-and-circular-by-design’ could help limit future pollution.

Source: EEA, 12 December 2019