Today, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published details of a proposed ban on the production, use, sale and import of some 10,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The purpose of the ban is to keep PFAS out of the environment. PFAS are used in tens of thousands of products, including mobile phones, wind turbines, cosmetics, solar panels, medical devices and raincoats. The proposed ban, officially a restriction proposal, was drafted by the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The European Commission is slated to present the proposal to Member States formally in 2025. If passed, it would constitute one of the largest chemical substances bans ever in Europe.

Huge impact

A ban on PFAS would reduce quantities of PFAS in the environment over the long term. It would also make products and processes safer for humans. If the European Commission adopts the proposal, companies will be forced to find alternatives for approximately 10,000 PFAS in applications in which these substances are used. In many cases, no such alternatives currently exist, and in some they possibly never will. The proposal’s formal submission in itself sends a clear signal that companies need to seek alternatives to PFAS.

Transition period

Under the restriction proposal, companies will have from a year and half to a maximum of 12 years to introduce alternatives, depending on the application. These deadlines also depend on the availability and applicability of PFAS alternatives. The proposal was drafted on the basis of the EU European Union (European Union) REACH Regulation on chemical substances. The rules governing active substances in plant protection products, biocides and medicines for both humans and animals will need to be evaluated further to determine the extent to which PFAS can be banned for those specific applications.

Lengthy process

The restriction proposal was drafted over a period of several years, led by the Netherlands and Germany. It was officially submitted to ECHA by the five countries on 13 January and published today. ECHA will open formal consultations on the restriction proposal on 22 March. During this consultation period, interested parties may submit additional information, for instance to justify amending specific points of the proposal. Decisions whether to amend the proposal based on such additional information will be made by ECHA’s scientific committees. At the end of this process, ECHA will submit the definitive proposal to the European Commission. The European Commission is expected to take a decision on the PFAS ban in 2025.

Leading role for the Netherlands and Germany

The initiative for this European restriction proposal came from the Netherlands. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management commissioned RIVM’s Bureau REACH to draft the proposal on behalf of the Dutch government. Four other countries (Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Norway) joined the initiative, with the Netherlands and Germany assuming a joint coordinating role.