No EU vote on restricting 'forever chemicals' before 2025, EU official says

European flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels,
European flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BERLIN, May 26 (Reuters) - The European Union will not vote on phasing out so-called forever chemicals before 2025, an EU official said, as the bloc moves to regulate the use of such chemicals, which are essential for industry but have long-term hazardous environmental impacts.

Known as PFAS, which stands for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, the chemicals are used in everything from cosmetics to furniture and have been linked to illnesses including cancer and liver damage.

The European Chemicals Agency opened a consultation on the restriction of PFAS in March after Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Germany submitted a proposal on reducing PFAS emissions into the environment and making products and processes safer for people.

"All member states agree on the need to phase out the use of PFAS in many applications," the official said in a briefing to journalists on Friday.

Some 17,000 sites are believed to be contaminated with PFAS in Europe, another official said.

"We are talking about places where children play and where water is contaminated ... where people cannot drink water from the tap because of contamination," the official said.

The consultation with scientists, industry representative and other stakeholders will take place this and next year to analyse what substances can be banned and the social economic implication for that, the official said.

"There is talk about thousands of substances ... and because it is something so important, it will take time to analyse this in detail," he added.

Some PFAS are critical for various energy transition industries such as electrolysers and semiconductors and the Commission would take that into consideration during the consultation, the official said.

"I hope ... all member states also agree that we will need to give derogations for specific applications as long as they can be adequately controlled, and there are no alternatives," he said.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Conor Humphries

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Riham Alkousaa is the energy and climate change correspondent for Reuters in Germany, covering Europe’s biggest economy's green transition and Europe’s energy crisis. Alkousaa is a Columbia University Journalism School graduate and has 10 years of experience as a journalist covering Europe’s refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war for publications such Der Spiegel Magazine, USA Today and the Washington Times. Alkousaa was on two teams that won Reuters Journalist of the year awards in 2022 for her coverage of Europe’s energy crisis and the Ukraine war. She has also won the Foreign Press Association Award in 2017 in New York and the White House Correspondent Association Scholarship that year.