ECRN contributed to the Dutch event on the PFAS restriction

ECRN contributed to the Dutch event on the PFAS restriction

On June 27th, the twelve Dutch provinces addressed the urgent issue of PFAS contamination during an official EU Green Week event. The event, “Resilient Regions: Healthy Water and Soil for our Citizens – How to Move Towards a Feasible European PFAS Restriction?” emphasized the need for a feasible, fair and effective approach to a European PFAS restriction.

PFAS is everywhere and in everything. It is a persistent, non-degradable pollutant that is costly to diminish and detrimental to human health and soil and water quality. This is why the twelve Dutch provinces jointly put efforts to tackling the problem at the source and plead for a European restriction on the use of PFAS with strict derogations.

Public concern about PFAS in The Netherlands is substantial, as many Dutch citizens are aware of the pollution and its negative health effects. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment indicates excessive PFAS intake through food, and in certain zones it is advised to not consume produce from personal gardens and self-caught fish. Dutch water companies highlight that PFAS cannot be removed during drinking water production, and negative swimming advisories are issued for recreational waters due to high PFAS levels.

During yesterday’s event, Hagar Roijackers, Regional Minister for the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, spoke about the large number of potential PFAS sites in her region that are currently under investigation. This includes existing and former factory sites, fire stations, and defence sites where soil is possibly contaminated.

At this moment, the European Commission is already working on preventing these contaminated sites in the future. Martijn Beekman, working on the REACH legislation for the Directorate-General GROW, shared: “The universal PFAS restriction is now in the phase of independent assessment by the European Chemicals Agency. They consider the additional information, including possible concerns, provided during the consultation.

Christina De Avila, Head of Unit Directorate-General Environment, elaborated on the ‘essential use concept’, on which the European Commission published a communication earlier this year. This definition should lay the foundation for a common understanding of which substances are essential for society. “The expectation is that this concept will help to phase out the most harmful substances faster and can offer valuable guidance to the Commission’s considerations in the context of regulatory measures including under different PFAS-restricting legislations.”

Roijackers added: “We will continue to conduct a lot of research in the coming years. In addition, we are determining what measures need to be taken to remove the risks of existing contaminated sites. Meanwhile, of course, we need to gradually stop the emissions of PFAS into our environment.

Monika Bańka, speaking on behalf of the European Chemical Regions Network, shared that some regions worry about the consequences of a PFAS ban in chemical sectors. “A nuanced approach that takes into account economic impact is crucial.” The Dutch provinces acknowledge that a total ban will challenge the industry. They also believe it will drive the creation of sustainable and safe alternatives. Consequently, they advocate for strict requirements for any continued use of PFAS.

The Dutch provinces stress that collective efforts are needed to minimize phase-out periods. Initiatives such as Solarge are working on alternatives to PFAS. Gerard de Leede, Chief Technology Officer: “We developed a technical solution with which we can produce solar panels without using PFAS-chemicals. This shows there are perfect alternatives available, even at a similar cost. The EU should ban PFAS-chemicals now as producers should simply embrace these alternatives.

A complete restriction of all PFAS-chemicals in the EU is an intricate case which requires extensive discussion. The joint Dutch provinces are determined to stress the importance of creating and implementing fitting legislation and keep pressing the urgency of this matter as a political priority for the new European Commission. Next to this, the Dutch provinces find it important to facilitate the conversation between stakeholders in this discussion to come to a feasible, fair and effective restriction. The event seeks to be a platform for this discussion and for speeding up the process towards a PFAS free Europe.

Concluding Remarks
This partner event of the EU Green Week 2024 displayed the joint Dutch provinces’ motives in setting the stage for achieving a PFAS-emission free Europe. Attention was also given to potential barriers and the lack of alternatives for essential uses. The discussion underscored the need for coordinated efforts across Europe to develop and implement effective PFAS regulations with attention to finding alternatives to PFAS, particularly in essential sectors.

House of Dutch Provinces PRESS RELEASE: For further information, please contact Jacqueline Spuijbroek, EU-representative for the province of Zuid-Holland via