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There is now clear and unequivocal evidence that demonstrates global contamination of the environment, wildlife and human populations by per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, PFAS.
- Widespread PFAS-use has created an irreversible toxic legacy of global contamination.
- PFAS are accumulating in our bodies and those of our children.
- PFAS exposure poses an immediate threat to human health.
- PFAS pollution is fuelling the biodiversity crisis.
- PFAS pollution is a threat to UK drinking water.
- PFAS in products create a barrier to the circular economy and a waste problem yet to be solved.
- PFAS-free solutions already exist, yet PFAS continue to be added unnecessarily to many consumer products.
- With the planetary boundary for chemical pollution already largely exceeded, there is no time to wait!
The undersigned organisations therefore call on the UK Government to:
1. Restrict the production and use of ALL PFAS as one group by 2025, with the following recommendations and exemptions:
a. Take immediate action to phase-out PFAS where suitable alternatives are already in regular use across the UK market (e.g. in food packaging).
b. Take immediate action to prevent products containing high levels of PFAS being marketed as ‘compostable’.
c. Grant time-limited exemptions (with caveats, see points 2a-c below) where the continued use of PFAS is proven to be essential for the health, safety or functioning of society, AND where no suitable alternative currently exists.
2. Where an exemption for continued use is granted the following conditions must apply:
a. Stringent risk-management requirements must be in place to ensure zero-emission to the environment at all stages of the life-cycle.
b. Regular reassessment should be carried out to ensure the conditions of the exemption remain valid.
c. Exemptions should be time-limited, ensuring a full phase-out by 2035.
3. Ensure sufficient funding and support is available to drive research and innovation towards safe and sustainable PFAS alternatives.
4. Submit a proposal to the Stockholm Convention for global elimination of ALL PFAS.
Chemical pollution has passed the safe limit for humanity, and with scientists urging immediate action to reduce the production and release of novel entities it is vital that we do not delay measures to address the growing and persistent problem of PFAS.
Widespread PFAS-use has created an irreversible toxic legacy of global contamination
Despite no natural sources and only ~60 years since their first commercial use, the extreme persistence, mobility and widespread use of PFAS has resulted in global contamination of water, air, soils, wildlife and human populations. PFAS and their precursors are now found in drinking water across Europe[i] and the US[ii], are ubiquitous in UK freshwater[iii], and are accumulating in the marine environment[iv]. PFAS contaminate soils and crops and bioaccumulate along food chains1, with some showing half lives in the environment of over 1000 years[v]. They contaminate air and dust and through long-range atmospheric transport reach even the most remote regions of the globe, from high altitudes to both poles[vi], [vii], [viii]. With current analytical methodologies restricted to a minority of PFAS, and fewer still being actively monitored, our current understanding of environmental contamination represents only the tip of the iceberg[ix]. Continuing to condone this widespread degradation of natural resources risks devastating consequences for future generations.
PFAS pollution is fuelling the biodiversity crisis
Anthropogenic chemical pollution is acknowledged as one of the main, yet underestimated, drivers of the biodiversity crisis[xxiv]. Due to the extreme environmental persistence of PFAS (some PFAS have half-lives of over 1000 years), and their continued and widespread use across modern society, PFAS represent a major and increasing burden on wildlife. This both directly impacts population survival and reduces resilience to other stressors such as climate change and habitat loss.
PFAS are highly mobile in the environment with research showing the ability of some to both bioaccumulate and biomagnify. As such, PFAS are now detected in numerous species across the UK, from freshwater fish and terrestrial birds, to top predators such as otters, seabirds and marine mammals[xxv], [xxvi], [xxvii]. Recent research also points to the impact PFAS can have on key species such as pollinators, risking knock-on implications across UK agriculture and food production. For example:
- In marine mammals, PFAS exposure has been linked to impacts on immune, blood, liver and kidney function in bottlenose dolphins, immune function in sea otters and has even been linked to neurological impacts in polar bears[xxviii].
- In marine birds, higher levels of PFAS are correlated with disruption of the thyroid hormone and poorer body conditions[xxix].
- In fish, PFAS have been shown to disrupt reproduction, thyroid activity, metabolism and development[xxx].
- Exposure of bee colonies to PFOS has been shown to increase mortality and affect colony activity, with PFOS bioaccumulating in bee tissues[xxxi].
The threat of persistent chemicals is not new. Legacy contaminants such as PCBs continue to threaten UK wildlife decades after restrictions were first introduced[xxxii]. It is therefore vital that we act with urgency to stem all unnecessary sources of these persistent pollutants if we are to learn from past mistakes, protect wildlife and safeguard the resilience of our natural environment for future generations.
To add your support, along with Froglife and the below organisations, please send your organisational logo to email@example.com