This listicle lays out the current state of the PFAS crisis in Europe and the measures being taken to address the issue of these forever compounds in our environment.
- Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) are a group of substances composed of more than 4,700 chemicals.
- They are widely used, man-made chemicals that accumulate over time in the environment and in humans.
- PFAS have been detected in the environment across Europe under national monitoring activities.
- Several drinking water supplies are now contaminated in different European countries.
- The number of sites in Europe potentially emitting PFAS is thought to be in the order of 100,000.
- Some highly polluted areas have concentrations of PFOA and PFOS above levels proposed by the 2018 revision of the EU Drinking Water Directive (EC 2017).
- Certain PFAS may cause cancer, issues with reproduction, and are suspected to interfere with the human endocrine system.
“If all the PFAS releases into the environment would stop tomorrow, they would continue to be present in the environment and humans for many generations.”
- European Chemicals Agency
- Several studies report PFAS in fish from European glacial lakes.
- PFOS is the highest-occurring PFAS found in fish.
- Consuming contaminated fish is not thought to pose human health risks unless one regularly consumes fish with known high PFAS concentrations.
- The environmental quality standard is 9.1 ng PFOS/g set by the Swedish Food Agency.
- The EU revised the Drinking Water Directive in 2020 to regulate total PFAS to 500 ng/l.
- The EU will ban all PFAS in fire-fighting foams and other uses, allowing use only where truly essential for society.
- The EU has called for proposals under the Green
Deal, to work on the remediation of PFAS and is offering grants to support research.
- Monitoring of UK lakes, rivers, groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters between 2014 and 2019 suggests PFAS are widely present in English surface and groundwaters.
- There are no known notifications of PFAS levels exceeding guidance in drinking water as determined by the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate.
- Typically, PFAS are analyzed by liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry.
- Combustion ion chromatography can be used as a screening method for fluoride-containing compounds.
- For more on analysis solutions, workflows and toolkits for PFAS, visit our dedicated webpage.