Civil Society condemns the EU’s conduct in undermining an otherwise effective worldwide ban of toxic chemical PFOA

13.5.2019 - GENEVA
PFOA exemption for medical textiles is risky

An international group of chemical and health NGOs have come together to express their deep regret and disapprovement of the EU delegation's behavior and actions at the COP9 of the Stockholm Convention. Governments agreed to a global ban on Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) - an extremely persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemical - and a large number of unjustified five-year exemptions were included. 

Against recommendations from the POPs Review Committee (United Nations (UN) International Expert Group) for the Stockholm Convention, and the wide availability of alternative alternatives, the European Union last week requested the unjustified 5 year global exemption for in manufacturing medical textiles.

The report of the POPs Review Committee ( UNEP / POPS / POPRC.14 / 6 / Add.2 ) identifies several potential alternatives for use in medical textiles, including those that meet regulatory requirements and are currently in use. In addition, no specific application related to medical textiles has been identified that absolutely requires the use of PFOA.

During the COP9 discussions, even the representatives of the fluorochemicals industry repeatedly opposed this exemption request (and others) due to the wide availability of existing alternatives to PFOA - contaminate groundwater and drinking water worldwide, that is also linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and harming foetal development.  

European Flagrant Disregard for International Protocol, the European Union has been nominated for a listing under the Stockholm Convention and has been participating in the evaluation process where this exemption was deemed unjustified. Still, the EU requested this additional exemption at the meeting.

"In the request of this exemption, the EU had effectively lowered the bar in global chemicals management and brought other countries in line with its own weak regulation. PFOA and PFOA-related substances are used in significant amounts in the treatment of medical textiles," stated Dorota Napierska, Chemicals Policy & Projects Officer - Europe HCWH.

This did not go unnoticed at COP9, and several parties to the Convention and members of the POPs review Committee on Conducting Critical Conduct, the open violation of the expert's decisions, and the integrity of the UN review process.

"With the additional exemption, the EU disregards the work of the experts and products and the environment by highly toxic chemicals that are destined for global elimination," says Jitka Strakova from Arnika - Toxics and Waste Program.

 The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has recently set up Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) levels for PFOA at 6 nanograms per kilogram of body weight, and has concluded that a large proportion of the population already exceeds the new TWIs.

We, the undersigned, therefore, publicly express our deep regret and disapprovement of the behavior of the EU - which is often presented as a model of environmental protection legislation during the COP9 of the Stockholm Convention. Not only does this decision fail to protect the environment and human health, but also the way in which the exemption was introduced to this important global process and the protocols that underpin it. 

We call on the EU to change its behavior and to truly embrace its powerful demonstration of strong and democratic leadership in protecting the environment and its 508 million citizens.


  • Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe
  • Arnika - Toxics and Waste Program - Czech Republic
  • Breast Cancer UK
  • Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  • The Danish Ecological Council
  • ECOCITY -Greece
  • Ecologistas en Acción - Spain
  • European Environmental Citizens' Organization for Standardization (ECOS)
  • Federation SEPANSO - France
  • Friends of the Earth Germany
  • Fundacion Alborada - Spain
  • The Future in our Hands - Norway
  • Générations Futures - France
  • GLOBAL 2000 - Austria
  • Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) - Europe
  • Hogar sin Tóxicos - Fundación Vivo Sano - Spain
  • Society for Earth - Poland
  • Women Engage for Common Future (WECF) International
  • ZERO - Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System - Portugal

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