On Tuesday, France unveiled its plan of action against PFAS, nicknamed “perpetual pollutants”, and showed its support for a project to limit their production and use, carried out by several European countries.
“The priority of the French authorities is to culminate the current European-level ban process to address the risks associated with PFAS,” the Ministry of Ecological Transition stressed when presenting its plan.
Five European countries (Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway) filed last Friday a proposal to “restrict” these substances, claiming that their production and use are “insufficiently controlled”.
This approach, which is due to be detailed on February 7, is being carried out with “French support,” the government stresses.
Perfluorinated (PFC) and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds are a family of synthetic chemical compounds containing more than 4,700 molecules, some of which are suspected to have adverse health effects. They owe their nickname to their very long life cycle.
Endowed with non-stick, waterproof and heat-resistant properties, these substances are present in several industries and household items: Teflon products, food packaging, some textiles, etc.
Among the measures announced, the government introduced “a procedure for identifying industrial sites potentially releasing significant amounts of PFAS”. Thus, plants producing fire-fighting foam, or even non-stick pans, will need to conduct analyzes as a preamble to a “reduction approach” to emissions.
The Arkem site in Pierre-Benit (Rhône), recently taken over by environmental activists, should be the “predecessor” of this process of identification and reduction.
“The first step is to better understand these substances in the environment, quantify and measure them, and then take action to reduce them at the source among the main sources of emissions,” said Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechou.
The NGO Générations Futures, which recently published a study concluding that the presence of PFAS in French waters is “probably underestimated”, welcomed France’s support for the European cap but otherwise coldly welcomed the government’s plan.
“The proposed measures remain very vague and still do not force producers to limit PFAS emissions,” says François Veilleret, spokesman for Générations Futures.