27 May 2024, 19:15

Europe's water contamined by PFAS chemical: NGOs

PARIS, May 27, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Europe's rivers, lakes and groundwater are
riddled with "alarming" levels of a persistent man-made 'forever chemical'
linked to synthetic pesticides, a coalition of non-governmental organisations
said on Monday.

The European Pesticide Action Network (PAN Europe) and its members analysed
more than two dozen surface and groundwater samples from 10 European Union
countries and found PFAS long-life substances in all.

They said the abundance of one chemical in particular, trifluoroacetic acid
(TFA), represented "the largest known area-wide contamination by a man-made
chemical" that well exceeded limits proposed by the 27-nation EU.

"The extent of the contamination is alarming and calls for decisive action,"
PAN Europe said in a new report detailing its findings.

Widely used in everyday items like cosmetics, non-stick pans and fire
extinguishers, PFAS are highly durable products that can take centuries to
break down.

They have been detected in water, air, fish and soil in the remotest corners
of the globe, and concern over their possible impact on human health has been

Degrading PFAS used in pesticides are a major source of TFA. They are also
released into the atmosphere from certain cooling systems and eventually
enter the water cycle through rain.

TFA is the "perfect" groundwater contaminant because it is highly soluble in
water, extremely mobile and evades soil and other natural filters that remove
pollutants, the report said.

"They can enter the groundwater almost unhindered and remain there for
centuries," it said.

The samples, tested by the Water Technology Centre in Karlsruhe, Germany,
found TFA in all water samples, with concentrations ranging from 370
nanograms per litre to 3,300 ng/L.

Some 79 percent of samples had TFA levels above the proposed EU Drinking
Water Directive limit of 500 ng/l for total PFAS, the report said.

A decision to class TFA as 'non-relevant' under EU pesticide regulations was
"regrettable" considering its "toxicological profile still leaves many
questions unanswered", it added.

It said a recent study on rabbits and TFA exposure found birth defects in
offspring, raising serious concerns about this chemical.

PAN Europe called for urgent interventions to address this "political
failure", starting with a "rapid ban" on PFAS pesticides and a rethink on the
threat posed by individual chemicals like TFA.

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