Danger for climate goals?
Associations reject general PFAS ban
08/03/2023, 11:20 am
The EU is considering banning a huge group of chemicals – the PFAS chemicals. But the industry associations are sounding the alarm. In the event of a comprehensive ban, the climate goals would be at risk, she criticized. They receive support from the Minister for Economic Affairs.
Large German industry associations warn that a comprehensive ban on so-called perpetual chemicals could jeopardize the EU climate targets. No windmill, no e-car, no energy storage, no semiconductors – without PFAS chemicals it would not be possible to produce key technology on the way to climate neutrality, according to a statement from the automotive industry (VDA), mechanical engineering (VDMA) and the electrical and digital industries ( ZVEI). Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck from the Greens also advocates a differentiated approach to the chemical group.
The European Union is discussing a possible ban on PFAS, which are also called forever chemicals because of their longevity. The group of chemicals includes an estimated 10,000 individual substances that are processed in everyday products such as anoraks, pans or cosmetics. In industry, they are used, for example, in seals, insulation or cables. Lithium-ion batteries, for example for e-cars or hydrogen technologies, are also dependent on PFAS.
The president of the automotive association VDA, Hildegard Müller, warned that a blanket ban on PFAS threatened to become a “climate protection boomerang”. Without the chemicals, neither the existing vehicles nor future vehicle technologies are conceivable today. According to Mechanical Engineering President Karl Haeusgen, “many green technologies, from wind turbines to hydrogen production and the production of fuel cells” would be at risk.
Habeck warns against over-regulation
Habeck also spoke out against a general ban. “Better regulation where it is necessary for consumer protection, but no over-regulation for the economy where it inhibits growth and technological development. Specifically, this means: where these chemicals are not used safely for people and the environment and can be easily replaced by other substances we should promote the rapid phase-out. This is particularly true where they are used close to the consumer.”
At the same time, however, the renewal of industry must not be jeopardized, the Green politician warned. PFAS played a central role in future technologies such as semiconductors, electrolyzers and electric drives. “Here, PFAS cannot simply be replaced and here we must not prevent the development of technologies through over-regulation, especially since they are used in closed systems in production.”
The three industry associations demand that substances for which there is currently no substitute should continue to be available to industry. This should also apply to substances that pose no risk to humans or the environment. Risky PFAS should be continuously replaced, as is already common practice. The substances must be considered in a differentiated and risk-based manner, said ZVEI President Gunther Kegel.
Most of the substances have not yet been examined
A possible ban on the group of chemicals is being discussed in the EU. Germany and other countries had proposed an almost complete ban on the manufacture, use and marketing of PFAS. Depending on the application, transition periods of up to thirteen and a half years are planned. There would be unlimited exceptions for a few areas.
Because of the enormous variety of compounds, most of the substances have not yet been investigated. So it’s a kind of precautionary measure. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), most of the well-studied substances are considered to be moderately to highly toxic. The EU chemicals agency ECHA wants to assess a possible ban after a six-month public consultation that ends on September 25. The decision is ultimately made by the European Commission together with the EU member states.