PFOA exemption for medical textiles is risky



An international group of chemical and health NGOs have come together to publicly express deep regret and disapproval of the EU delegation’s behaviour and actions at the COP9 of the Stockholm Convention. Whilst governments agreed to a global ban on perfluorooctanoic acid  (PFOA) – an extremely persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemical - a large number of unjustified five-year exemptions were included. 

Against recommendations from the POPs Review Committee (the United Nations (UN) International Expert Group) for the Stockholm Convention, and despite the wide availability of safer alternatives, it was the European Union that last week requested the unjustified 5 year global exemption for PFOA use 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 representatives of the fluorochemicals industry repeatedly opposed this exemption request (and others) due to the wide availability of existing alternatives to PFOA - a substance known to contaminate groundwater and drinking water worldwide, that is also linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and harming foetal development.  

The EU’s flagrant disregard for international protocol

The European Union nominated this substance for listing under the Stockholm Convention and participated throughout the evaluation process where this exemption was deemed unjustified. Still, the EU requested this additional exemption at the meeting.

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