Europe under threat from toxic PFASs

Europe under threat from toxic PFASs

The high concentration of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), a large class of toxic synthetic chemicals commonly known as “forever chemicals,” pose a threat both to the health of Europeans and the planet, according to a report by Reuters.

These toxic substances have penetrated the food chain and drinking water, and are known for their persistence. 

The European Union on Tuesday started to consider a proposal to ban the substances in what could become the bloc’s most extensive piece of regulation of the chemical industry.

An investigation by 17 European journalistic organizations found these substances in more than 17,000 locations in Europe, with 2,100 sites designated as particularly impacted, with PFASs hazardous to human health.

In Greece, the investigation found high concentrations of such compounds in Asopos, Psyttaleia, Viotia and in landfills in Kilkis, Serres, Kozani, Orestiada, Mytilene, Chios and Iraklio.

Research by a Scandinavian intergovernmental working group has shown that even a small dose of PFASs has dire health consequences. 

PFASs cause problems in newborns and infertility in men and women, reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, increase the risk of breast, kidney, thyroid and testicular cancer, cause colitis, increase cholesterol and blood pressure, and are responsible for pre-eclampsia.

The study team concluded that PFASs cost Europe’s health systems between €52 and €84 billion every year.

The highest concentrations of PFASs on the European continent are found in the Veneto region in northern Italy, where the Miteni chemical plant has been synthesizing a range of PFASs for half a century.

The water contamination in the area, discovered only in 2013, affects 200 square kilometers and 350,000 inhabitants of the Veneto region.

Because PFASs do not degrade naturally, environmental cleanups in polluted areas will be extremely costly. Addressing water contamination near Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, for example, would cost €100 million, with the estimated cost of PFAS cleanups at all European airports – significant consumers of these chemicals – totaling €18 billion. 

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