Industry lobbies aggressively against EU’s proposed ‘forever chemicals’ ban

CORPORATE Europe Observatory has uncovered how the toxics industry is fighting back against the upcoming regulation of PFAS or ‘forever chemicals’, which are found in everything from frying pans to food packaging.

Using access to documents requests and LobbyFacts data they have found that chemical companies painting themselves as reasonable, concerned actors, are at the same time pushing privately for exemptions for their own PFAS products, and warning in dramatic terms of the economic fallout of banning them.

“Meanwhile”, says the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) “the real catastrophe – the impacts on human health and the environment – as well as the costs of clean up, continue apace.”

CEO’s research explores the key PFAS polluters; their complex web of lobbyists and allies; and some of the strategies they’re using to weaken the proposal for an EU-wide universal PFAS (uPFAS) restriction to ban the manufacture, sale, and use of up to 10,000 PFAS.

Vicky Cann, CEO researcher said “PFAS polluters are trying to create the impression that the industry is a reasonable actor which can be relied upon to act in the interests of the public good. But they are also demanding opt-outs from a ban on PFAS – and are being supported by various lobby, PR, and law firms.

“Chemical companies have known about the risks of polluting PFAS for decades and are responsible for the massive PFAS pollution crisis we are facing, the burden of which is largely falling on communities and the public purse. Commercial interests must not be allowed to pollute public interest decision-making to regulate ‘forever chemicals’. The PFAS ban must be fully comprehensive and put in place as soon as possible.”

125 NGOs are part of the #BanPFAS coalition and are calling for a ban on all ‘forever chemicals’ in consumer products by 2025 and a complete ban by 2030.

CEO says that their research has found that:

  • The PFAS lobby is using a two-pronged strategy: acknowledge public concern about PFAS pollution, but then demand permanent exemptions in the upcoming uPFAS restriction.
  • 13 major PFAS producers and users are spending between €18.6 million and €21.1 million in lobbying the EU institutions per year, on all issues, and between them have 72 lobbyists and 59 European Parliament passes.
  • 11 of these companies reported a €9 million lobby spend, on all issues, in one member state alone, Germany, in the most recent year. Meanwhile a Flemish minister has spoken of the “aggressive” industry lobbying on PFAS, and that “the lobbying machine… has increased enormously”, indicating that this battle is being fought at member state level too.
  • The big chemical industry trade associations, CEFIC and PlasticsEurope, have set up bespoke groups to coordinate corporate influencing on the PFAS proposal.
  • Lobby consultancy firms are very active on PFAS: each of the top 6 lobby consultancy firms in Brussels have at least 2 members of the biggest PFAS industry lobby among their clients.
  • Law firms are also joining the PFAS industry’s fight-back against the proposed restriction, also readying for potential legal fights.
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