Chemicals that are harmful to human and wildlife health are entering the food chain via sewage sludge spread on farmland, according to new research from CHEM Trust.
A new CHEM Trust briefing highlights the threats posed to the environment and human health by a family of over 4,000 highly persistent chemicals: PFAS (Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) which are known as the ‘forever chemicals’.
CHEM Trust is extremely concerned that this group of chemicals could lead to a situation where their adverse effects could last for generations if urgent action, such as a global ban, is not taken.
CHEM Trust have found that people and wildlife are exposed to hundreds of PFAS simultaneously from various environmental routes, including drinking water, and via consumer products (e.g. waterproof coats, non-stick pans, greaseproof food packaging, cosmetics etc.). Some have proven toxicity (e.g. thyroid disease, reduced response to routine vaccination in children, possibly carcinogenic), and many haven’t yet been properly studied.
The special carbon-fluorine structure of PFAS is hard to break down in the natural environment. This bond means that they are the most persistent synthetic chemicals to date. PFAS are also mobile in the environment; they are already building up in the most remote areas and pose a threat to drinking water quality.
The clean-up of local contamination by PFAS is very challenging and it is impossible to remove contamination from the ocean and wildlife and people around the world. Because of their extreme persistence, contamination is likely to last decades or centuries, even after emissions have ended, exposing future generations and wildlife all over the planet.
Only two PFAS groups are globally regulated under the Stockholm Convention (PFOS in 2009 and PFOA in 2019) and industry keep replacing one regulated PFAS with a non-regulated one. CHEM Trust say that if we continue to regulate them at the current rate – one PFAS every 10 years – it will take over 40,000 years to regulate all of the 4,000 PFAS.
Not acting on highly persistent and harmful chemicals has an economic cost to society. The cost of inaction on PFAS has recently been estimated at €52 – €84 billion annually for health-related costs for all countries of the European Economic Area and at €46 million – €11 billion annually for environment-related costs for the European Nordic countries.
Dr Julie Schneider, CHEM Trust campaigner and author of the new briefing, said:
“What we are witnessing with the PFAS chemicals is another example of the failure of the current regulatory framework to adequately protect people and wildlife from the potential harm caused by some synthetic chemicals.”
“The system should be designed to make the build-up of man-made chemicals in the environment impossible. This is the best way to protect future generations and wildlife from unforeseen adverse effects triggered by the accumulation of synthetic chemicals in the environment.”
CHEM Trust proposes the following actions are taken to address these ‘forever chemicals’:
Climate Change and Nature
Climate Change and Nature: Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the effect of food and farming on climate change and nature, as scientific evidence emerges that our food system is a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.
International cities with 64 million citizens, including London in the UK, have committed to using...
The latest report by Wildlife and Countryside Link shows an increase in wildlife crime, yet the...
The Farming, Food and Climate Justice March will be held on Saturday 5 October at 2pm starting at...
The Sustain alliance is using the day of the Climate Strike, 20th September 2019, to renew calls...
World leaders from the Global Commission on Adaptation call on governments and businesses to take...
Donate to enhance the health and welfare of people, animals and the planet.
Sustain's new report published as fast food giants McDonalds and KFC are eyeing up 800 new UK...
Islington Council have topped the latest good food league table, published by London Food Link this...
As Antibiotics Awareness Week (18-22 Nov) begins the experts in the Alliance to Save Our...
Crumbs of news from the world of Real Bread.
April to September 2019 was the busiest six-month period for food banks in the Trussell...
The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA
Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.