PFAS: the government is committed to fighting these eternal pollutants

PFAS: the government is committed to fighting these eternal pollutants

Yesterday, Thursday April 4, deputies voted on a text aimed at limiting the distribution of products containing PFAS and the government announced an interministerial plan on the subject to respond to health issues. Has the war on eternal pollutants finally been declared? And what should it protect us from?

From January 1, 2026, Europe will ban clothing, cosmetic products or wax (for skis) that contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This is what was decided yesterday, Thursday April 4, at the National Assembly during the adoption at first reading of a bill aimed at restricting the manufacture and sale of products containing PFAS (kitchen utensils excluded, after strong mobilization of manufacturers).

Persistent pollutants found everywhere

The bill presented by ecologist Nicolas Thierry was based on a fact: the presence of PFAS or eternal pollutants, increasingly documented, would be involved in numerous pathologies. PFAS represent a large family of more than 4,000 chemical compounds that are very persistent in the environment, meaning they decompose very slowly and accumulate in the environment and human tissues.

These synthetic chemicals are found in a wide range of consumer products for their non-stick, waterproofing properties and for their resistance to high heat. Either :

  • In non-stick cookware;
  • Food packaging;
  • Cosmetics;
  • The painting ;
  • The textiles;
  • Household products…

In addition, as ANSES points out, the massive use of PFAS in industry, “causes pollution of all environments: the waterl’air, the sun or even sediments”. They can also “accumulate in living organisms, plants and animals, and end up in the food chain” : seafood, eggs, meat, soil, drinking water and air are therefore also contaminated.

The quality of bottled water is not guaranteed

This April 4 was marked by another news. According to an assessment by the National Food Safety Agency (ANSES), the waters of the Nestlé group are also contaminated by bacteria, pesticides and Pfas. In addition to being treated and purified by prohibited methods and strictly reserved for tap water, the expertise carried out on the group’s water reveals widespread contamination of the sources exploited. A “reinforced surveillance” plan in factories is recommended by experts but it is not known whether it has been implemented. The Nestlé group maintains that the quality of its water complies with regulations.

Increasingly described effects on health

Little by little, over the course of studies, these PFAS demonstrate problematic effects, which motivated the law adopted. “They are absorbed by the human body first through food, but also to a lesser extent through the skin, or by breathing emissions into the air near factories.deciphers Doctor Pierre Souvet, president of the Santé Environnement Europe association in The Parisian.

ANSES describes harmful effects for humans although not all PFAS can be studied. However, according to the European Environment Agency, several health risks have been identified:

  • Thyroid diseases;
  • Liver damage;
  • Obesity;
  • Fetal developmental disorders;
  • Fertility problems,
  • Des cancers….

An interministerial plan announced by the government

Faced with the threat of these eternal pollutants, the government announced on April 4, 2024 the publication of an interministerial action plan to limit the risks of PFAS.

A joint plan led by the Ministries of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Industry, Work and Health, Interior, Agriculture, Armies, Research for “clearly define the objectives and responsibilities to ensure the coherence and effectiveness of the action of the various ministries concerned” et “reduce the risks associated with PFAS as quickly as possible.

Several axes are announced:

  • Develop methods for measuring emissions, environmental contamination and the impregnation of humans and other living organisms;
  • Have robust scenarios for assessing exposure of organisms (humans and other living organisms) taking into account the multiple routes (ingestion, inhalation, skin contact) and sources of exposure to ubiquitous pollutants such as PFAS;
  • Strengthen monitoring systems for PFAS emissions in water and air and better understand the contamination of drinking water catchment areas;
  • Reduce the risks linked to exposure to PFAS based on the European scale;
  • Prepare for the future by supporting innovation and the substitution of PFAS substances in industrial products and supporting research;
  • Improve information among the population, to act better;
  • Allow the development of tools aimed at informing citizens.

“It is through concerted and decided action at all levels, supported by rigorous scientific analysis, that we will be able to protect our fellow citizens against PFAS” concludes the press release.

It’s time to really take stock of the threat

Contacted by TipsForWomens, Nadine Lauverjat, General Delegate of Générations Futures, an association which has been fighting against PFAS for years, welcomes this double announcement as good news. “We have to see what this will give, but the fact that this is an interministerial plan is a little more substantial than a simple proposal for an ecological law, like last year, it’s a good start.”.

On the other hand, she is somewhat doubtful of the repercussions and concrete measures that could result from it. “There are currently no clear regulations on PFAS in the environment. It’s a bit like researching pesticides in the air; if there are no regulations, no standards, we can’t do much with this data. At best, we can inform about what is in aqueous environments, in the environment, food, mud, etc. We will see if the implementation of this interministerial plan will effectively make it possible to identify all the issues and if necessary, launch procedures to protect the population.