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Leaked documents reveal devious reason behind government walk-back on chemical laws: 'We are being pushed'

The hesitation could result in a severe setback in key policymaking.

PFAS, mostly focused on cleaning up drinking water

Photo Credit: iStock

A European Union crackdown on forever chemicals might be a short-lived effort.  

The Guardian has reported on "leaked" documents showing that EU policymakers are backtracking due to pressure from powerful chemical companies. The newspaper reviewed the 77 pages of a leaked study with a "revision of targets" concerning chemical laws. 

It's an important development as health experts begin to better understand how these chemicals, also called PFAS, are saturating our world. They are often called "forever" substances because they take a long time to degrade, a fact detailed by the EU's own Chemical Agency and discussed in a video from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

About 17% of European children and adolescents are at risk for exposure to a combination of the chemicals, which could cause a variety of health problems, according to the European Environment Agency. 

"The EU's failure to control harmful chemicals is written in the contaminated blood of almost all Europeans," Tatiana Santos, head of chemicals policy at the European Environmental Bureau, told the Guardian

What's happening? 

The EU targeted PFAS with a proposed ban of 10,000 chemicals, phased into effect through the late 2030s, according to a Bloomberg report from February. 

The heavy use of PFAS means the regulations would impact all sorts of products. Bloomberg lists electronics, wind turbines, cosmetics, and cookware among them. 

Why is it important?

The pledge to ban harmful chemicals in everyday products started in 2020 as part of Europe's Green Deal. The Guardian reports that the chemical industry now appears to be influencing the process. 

"We are being pushed to be less strict on industry all the time," an unnamed EU official told the Guardian. Government and industry leaders from France, Germany, and Belgium were quoted in the story with reservations about the rules. The common theme: fear of economic repercussions from "overregulation." 

The hesitation could result in a severe setback in key environmental policymaking. 

"The EU's regulatory retreat could be the nail in the coffin of the European Green Deal, fueling cynicism about untrustworthy elites doing deals with big toxic lobbies, unless the commission makes good on its promise to detox products and stand up to polluters," Santos told the Guardian. 

A leaked document shows that 1%, 10%, or 50% of products with hazardous chemicals could be regulated, according to the Guardian's report. The newspaper noted that the EU "typically selects the middle option." 

What's being done to help? 

The U.S. is considering regulations on PFAS, mostly focused on cleaning up drinking water, PBS reports. 

You can start eliminating forever chemicals from your life by avoiding plastics. One example is edible produce wraps that keep fruit and veggies fresh without the chemical coating. 

Using loose coffee grounds and tea leaves to make hot beverages and avoiding throwaway pods and tea bags can prevent pollution and plastic exposure. 

If consumer preference moves away from products that include PFAS, the industry lobby protecting them won't be as powerful. 

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