Defra acts to ban hazardous PFOS

The government's next steps towards a unilateral ban on the use of perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and the substances which break down to it, were announced this week.

Defra Minister Alun Michael made the announcement which proposes national regulations to manage the risks posed by PFOS and phase out its use. It is hoped that the proposals, published as part of a 14 week consultation, will inform wider action to ban the chemical across the EU.

“PFOS clearly meets the criteria for a chemical of high concern and presents a real and significant risk to the health of the population and the environment in the UK. I am concerned that a substance with these intrinsic properties is still being used, Mr Michael said. ”

PFOS is persistent, bio accumulative and toxic in mammals. It has been detected in the blood serum of occupational and general populations and there is a strong link between exposure to PFOS and bladder cancer.

Mr Michael announced the phase out of PFOS in June and the uses of the chemicals in the home have already declined significantly. The chemical has also been withdrawn voluntarily by the largest global producer, 3M.

However, it continues to be used in a number of industrial processes including chrome plating, fire fighting foams, the photographic industry, semi conductors and hydraulic fluids in aviation.

These industries are now being pressed to find safer alternatives.

The consultation runs until January 25th 2005.

By David Hopkins

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