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ECHA proposes PFAS foam ban

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has brought forward a proposal to ban all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in fire-fighting foams in the EU. A six-month consultation period with stakeholders will begin on 23 March.

This follows an investigation the agency carried out at the request of the European Commission into the strengths and weaknesses of five different options. It concluded that the risks posed by PFASs are currently not adequately controlled and that releases should be minimised.

“The restriction would prevent further groundwater and soil contamination and health risks for people and the environment,” ECHA said. It added that all PFASs and their breakdown products are very persistent and some are known to harm human health or the environment.

Under the proposal, makers of fire-fighting foams containing PFASs would have a transition period to replace them and ensure that those released to the environment during that period are minimised. Expired foams and any waste foams would also need to be appropriately disposed.

It is estimated that the restriction would reduce PFAS emissions by more than 13,000 tonnes over 30 years at a cost of about €7 billion. This includes modifying equipment, cleaning it to remove PFAS foam residues and the price difference between PFASs and alternative foams.

Five EU Member States - the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway - are separately working on a restriction proposal that will cover all PFASs in other uses. This is planned for submission to ECHA in January 2023, using the same risk assessment methodology as in the proposal on fire-fighting foams.

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