Belgium supports EU-wide ban on chemical linked to pollution scandal
Share article:
Share article:

Belgium supports EU-wide ban on chemical linked to pollution scandal

The Indaver plant in Antwerp, where waste is processed using high concentrations of PFAS. Credit: Belga

Belgium supports a European ban on the use of PFAS, a chemical proven to be dangerous to people’s health, and of which one compound – PFOS – was at the heart of a recent pollution scandal.

PFAS, which is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a larger group of chemical compounds that includes PFOS, a chemical hazardous to human and animal health that was discovered in the soil near the 3M factory in Antwerp, leading to people in the danger zone being advised not to eat certain foods, as well as a political fallout.

“Increased concentrations of PFAS have been found in the environment, in various locations in Belgium, which could have possible effects on human health,” said Céline Tellier, Walloon Minister for the Environment and Nature on Wednesday during a meeting of European Environment Ministers in Luxembourg.

She explained that the first results of a biomonitoring initiative that she is conducting in Wallonia showed “worrying concentration levels of chemical substances in the bodies of our fellow citizens, including substances that were banned 40 years ago.”

“I would like to stress the importance of biomonitoring actions at all levels,” said Tellier, who stated that Belgium will support the adoption of a restriction covering PFAS as a group of substances.

Related News

 

“This restriction will aim to prohibit all non-essential uses of PFAS and only allow specific uses for which there is evidence that they are essential for society and for as long as there are no alternatives,” she added.

She added that, in cases where the use of PFAS cannot be substituted by safer alternatives, the European Commission should ensure the traceability of PFAS and develop methods to ensure compliance checks.

Checks, policies and expertise

Tellier added that Belgium, as part of the proposed strategy including various measures, is calling for the sharing of knowledge and best practices between Member States on environmental permits and the management of historical pollution, and for the development of European expertise in this area.

One of the main issues when it comes to banning PFASs, also known as Forever Chemicals because they take a long time to degrade in nature, is that they are a very broad family, comprising several thousand synthetic chemicals.

For this reason, Tellier highlighted the need for strong policies to be adopted “as soon as possible to avoid severe environmental damage and adverse health impacts.”

On an international level, Belgium is calling on the Commission to include PFAS in the Stockholm Convention, a treaty that became effective in 2004 and that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants.

“Finally, in a broader sense, we invite national, European and international authorities, companies, investors and researchers to provide full support for the transition towards a safe and sustainable-by-design approach to chemicals,” Tellier said.

“It is up to us to invest massively and collectively both in financial and political terms in a more sustainable production model,” she concluded.

Tellier’s spokesperson told The Brussels Times that the proposal had been well received, citing, in particular, the support of Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, France, the Netherlands and Finland.

She added that the Commissioner for Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, promised to integrate PFAS in the EU chemicals strategy and in various provisions on food and soil.

Latest news

Belgium in Brief: Rules For A Fourth Wave
It's the news that nobody wants to hear, but here we go again. Belgium’s council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss ...
Belgian grandparents to walk across Scotland for COP26
A group of Belgian grandparents has set off on a 100 km hike that will take them from Belgium to the Scottish city of Glasgow, just ahead of the ...
Gare Maritime: Brussels’ most exciting new architectural project
A generation ago, the Gare Maritime in the Tour & Taxis industrial site was an abandoned wasteland. It is now a model for urban renewal and ...
Rise in fuel prices will bring Belgian State €547 million in tax, say Workers Party
The sharp rise in fuel prices that have been felt across the continent will bring an additional €547 million to the Belgian State, the Workers' Party ...
Amid backlash, Brussels police chief promises to do better for sexual assault victims
After multiple rallies against sexual violence took place in Brussels last week, with victims offering testimony of poor treatment from police when ...
Hire bikes and scooters: Brussels Parliament wants to restore order
Majority parties in the Brussels Parliament plan to enact new rules allowing communes to set specific and mandatory parking spaces for hire bikes and ...
‘Fourth wave’ has begun: These are the rules
The expected fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic has begun, according to Belgium’s Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit). Belgium’s ...
Coronavirus: Ending the pandemic is ‘a choice,’ says WHO chief
The Covid-19 pandemic will end “when the world chooses to end it” because “all the tools” are now available to fight the virus, the World Health ...
‘Can’t keep count’: Instagram page for sexual assault testimonies overwhelmed
An Instagram account compiling testimonies in an effort to give a voice to victims of sexual violence in bars and nightclubs has been overwhelmed ...
Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...