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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance pollution

Question écrite de M. Bas EICKHOUT - Commission européenne

Question de M. Bas EICKHOUT,

Diffusée le 18 juillet 2023

Subject: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance pollution

Despite European water and chemical legislation, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), so- called forever-chemicals, are emerging as one of Europe’s major environmental disasters. Recently, journalists from Dutch TV programme Zembla revealed that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) concentrations in surface water around the chemical company Chemours in the Netherlands are on average 13 thousand times above levels considered to be safe by the Dutch health authorities.

1. Are the unhealthy PFOA concentrations around Chemours in the Commission’s view, permissible under EU legislation?

2. Concentrations of PFAS in Europe are continuing to rise, which is having a serious impact on health and the natural environment. Does the Commission plan new legislative steps to address existing PFAS pollution in addition to addressing new pollution by means of the PFAS ban, which is now under review?

3. Pollution from these substances brings with it substantial costs for governments and health authorities: how will the Commission ensure that the polluter pays principle applies to the chemical industry?

Submitted: 19.7.2023

Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 8 novembre 2023

Answer given by Mr Sinkevičius on behalf of the European Commission (9 November 2023)

Although an environmental quality standard (EQS) is set (1) for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) as a priority substance in surface waters under the Water Framework Directive (2) and Member States must meet that EQS by 2027, no EQS is set for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at EU level.

However, Member States must set and meet EQS for substances posing a risk to or via the water environment at national level. The Netherlands had not done so for PFOA when it reported its second river basin management plans.

Given the risks from other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Commission included an EQS for a group of 24 PFAS, including PFOA, in its 2022 proposal to revise the priority substances list (3), which is under negotiation.

The proposal for a directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (4), also under negotiation, would require Member States to identify all sites where soil contamination (5) is suspected, do a risk assessment and take appropriate risk-reduction measures.

Provisions in the proposal (6) on revising the Industrial Emissions Directive (7) and the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Regulation (8) would promote the use of safer alternatives to PFAS and improve emissions reporting.

Five national authorities have proposed restricting all PFAS (9) as a group under the regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (10). The scientific committees of the European Chemicals Agency are preparing an opinion, on the basis of which the Commission will take a decision.

1 ∙ ⸱ Directive 2008/105/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy,

amending and subsequently repealing Council Directives 82/176/EEC, 83/513/EEC, 84/156/EEC, 84/491/EEC, 86/280/EEC and amending Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, OJ L 348, 24.12.2008, p. 84-97. 2 ∙ ⸱ Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, p. 1-73, as amended by Commission Directive 2014/101/EU of 30 October 2014, OJ L 311, 31.10.2014, p. 32-35. 3 ∙ ⸱ https://environment.ec.europa.eu/publications/proposal-amending-water-directives_en 4 ∙ ⸱ https://environment.ec.europa.eu/publications/proposal-directive-soil-monitoring-and-resilience_en 5 ∙ ⸱ Including by organic contaminants. 6 ∙ ⸱

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/publications/proposal-revision-industrial-emissions-directive_en 7 ∙ ⸱ Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control), OJ L 334, 17.12.2010, p. 17-119. 8 ∙ ⸱

Regulation (EC) No 166/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 January 2006 concerning the establishment of a European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register and amending Council Directives 91/689/EEC and 96/61/EC, OJ L 33, 4.2.2006, p. 1-17. 9 ∙ ⸱ In January 2023. 10 ∙ ⸱

REACH — Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, OJ L 396, 30.12.2006, p. 1-854.




















| | ) The Commission is committed to strengthening the application of the Polluter Pays Principle in European law (11), and to implementing the Environmental Liability Directive (12), which may be relevant in some PFAS contamination cases.

11 ∙ ⸱ A Fitness Check is ongoing.

12 ∙ ⸱ Directive 2004/35/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying

of environmental damage, OJ L 143, 30.4.2004, p. 56-75.



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