Europe’s ‘forever chemicals’ ban moves closer with committee meetings dates announced

By Julia Wray | Published: 13-Mar-2024

European Chemicals Agency committee meetings discussing PFAS use in cosmetics and other consumer products will take place from this month

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has outlined the next steps for the EU's proposed restriction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

Known as ‘forever chemicals’, PFAS don’t naturally degrade and persist in the environment.

Studies have linked certain PFAS to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, hypertension, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children.

The agency released dates of upcoming meetings for its committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC).

These will see the committees evaluate the proposed restriction alongside the 5,600-plus comments from last year’s consultation in batches, focusing on the different sectors that may be affected.

At the same time, the five national authorities that prepared the proposal – Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – will update their initial report to address the consultation comments. 

This updated report will be assessed by the committees and will serve as the foundation for their opinions.

A meeting specifically for cosmetics, consumer mixtures and ski wax will take place this month. 

Meetings on the hazards of PFAS (RAC only) and general approach (SEAC only) will also take place in March

Meetings covering other potentially affected industries are set to occur in June and September 2024 respectively. 

Cosmetics including nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipsticks and mascaras may contain PFAS chemicals to make them more durable, spreadable and water resistant.

The ECHA published its proposed restriction of around 10,000 PFAS in February 2023. 

It followed a January proposal to the ECHA from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to restrict the materials under the EU’s REACH chemicals regulation.

Europe is not the only region cracking down on forever chemicals. 

New Zealand’s ban on PFAS will take effect from 31 December 2026, according to the country's watchdog Environmental Protection Authority.

While the authority said at the time that research suggests PFAS are only found in a small number of products, it added it was taking a precautionary approach to potential risks from the chemicals. 

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