‘Forever chemicals’: government considers supporting ban

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An HSE review of use of ‘forever chemicals’ present in everyday items such as furniture and drinking water has been published to help the government consider supporting a ban or to increase monitoring of them.

PFAS (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances) are pollutants often called forever chemicals because they do not naturally breakdown and can stay in the environment for decades.

The report is the biggest analysis yet into their use and the health harms they pose. It includes exposure to everyday items such as food wrappers, cosmetics, cleaning products, and furniture coatings.

The report says monitoring suggests there is potential for exposure to 'forever chemicals' via drinking water. Photograph: iStock

The review, published 4 April, was issued as a regulatory management options analysis, a preliminary step designed to help authorities decide whether action should be taken and what kind.

Rory O’Neill, an occupational health professor at Queen Mary University of London said however that the document was ‘limited’: “These are not just ‘forever chemicals’, they are a serious risk to human health, linked to reproductive hazards, cancers and major organ damage. Much more extensive and serious restrictions are warranted,” he said.

HSE, as the Agency for UK REACH, says it will now work with the Environment Agency and others to consider what actions to take during the next year.

The government also released its updated 'plan for water' on 4 April, which aims to ban harmful chemicals and plastics which can find their way into our drinking water.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “The HSE’s analysis is a key part of our efforts to protect us from these persistent chemicals.

”This will build on our action to increase monitoring and support a ban or highly restrict specific PFAS both domestically and internationally, so that we can reduce the amount of PFAS entering our natural environment.”

“By improving our understanding of the potential risks posed by PFAS, we will be better equipped to tackle them.”

Read the HSE report here


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