Updated Apr 5, 2023

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HSE publish report on forever chemicals

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published their analysis of the most appropriate regulatory management options (RMOA) report on PFAS (Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances).

PFAS are commonly referred to as "forever chemicals", because they are pollutants that are slow to degrade - they do not breakdown naturally so can remain in the environment for decades.

The report is the most comprehensive analysis undertaken of PFAS in Great Britain. It looked in to the extent to which forever chemicals are used and how they are used, identifying the most common and most harmful uses of PFAS and measures that could be used to control and manage them.

This RMOA, is a preliminary step in the UK REACH framework and is used to combine and analyse information to better understand the nature and extent of exposure to a chemical substance. Part of the analysis considers management of PFAS around the world and existing legislation surrounding them.

The HSE's report makes a number of recommendations on these forever chemicals. One of the priority ones is to limit the use of PFAS-containing foams used by firefighters to put out fires, as there is more comprehensive information available on this specific use. They also recommend limiting the use of PFAS in textiles, furniture and cleaning products.

Director of HSE's chemicals regulation division, Dr Richard Daniels, said: "PFAS are a global issue of concern. We have looked at responses around the world, but it was vital we gathered the right information and evidence on how PFAS are used in Britain specifically. This has helped us work out where the right action could be taken to limit the use of PFAS and control exposures to people and the environment in this country."

"The reality is that PFAS substances, due to their persistent properties, will continue to be detected for many years – despite measures being taken to limit restrict or ban their use. We will now look at the availability and risks posed by alternatives to ensure maximum long-term protections can be gained."

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