Sinkevicius: Dealing with PFAS chemicals in revised tap water rules was a ‘great move’

The inclusion of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the EU’s Drinking Water Directive was a step forward that showed the EU’s commitment to address these chemicals, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius told EURACTIV.

Promoting his movie Dark Waters, Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo spoke at the European Parliament, bringing a warning to Europe about PFAS pollution of drinking water.

PFAS are synthetic chemicals used in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products such as adhesives, cosmetics and cleaning products.

In December, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) presented an overview of the known and potential risks that PFAS chemicals pose to human health and the environment. The agency estimated the costs linked to human health and remediation to €10 billion every year.

At the end of last year, the European Union reached a provisional agreement on updating the parameters of water for human consumption, which included tap water limits for the 20 most important of the 4,700 PFAS substances.

The Commission will also develop a method for measuring all PFAS in the coming years. The European Parliament and the EU Council will then set a new limit value for all 4,700 substances on the basis of the Commission’s method.

The revised drinking water directive still needs the final approval from both the European Parliament and EU member states.

Last December, four member states called on the EU executive to develop an action plan to phase out PFAS by 2030, allowing only essential uses. They made their demands heard in a letter sent to Frans Timmermans, the Commission vice-president in charge of the Green Deal.

For Sinkevicius, the main piece of legislation for coping with hazardous chemicals will be the sustainable EU chemicals policy strategy, although the issue could be raised in the new Circular Economy Action Plan too.

“The new chemical strategy is going to be out in Summer and we’ll be definitely consulting stakeholders in order to deliver the best possible results,” he said.

“Our goal is very clear. It’s a zero-pollution ambition to protect our citizens,” he added.

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