Pfas also in pesticides: a new report reveals which ones are still allowed in Europe

A recent report from the Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN) revealed the widespread presence of PFASs, which are notoriously persistent, in pesticides. Despite environmental and human health concerns, current European pesticide regulation does not adequately address the risk posed by the use of these active substances.

The presence of someone Pfas (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in the environment, water, food, etc. is a major public health concern. Now a joint investigation, conducted NGO Generations Futures and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europebrought to light a little-known aspect of the issue: the spread of some Pfas used as active ingredients in pesticides.

This specifically means that these dangerous substances, known in the US as forever chemicalsor chemicals that are eternal due to their persistence in the environment keep coming voluntarily used in the formulation of some pesticides.

It is the fact that they are persistent in the environment and dangerous that led the European Union to propose limits and the gradual elimination of PFAS. However, the associations deplore that pesticides have been strangely excluded from this regulatory proposal with the “excuse” that these substances are already covered and sufficiently contained by the Pesticide Regulation.

However, these are additives widely used in agriculture, which are clearly labeled as molecules harmful to health and the environment, and for which exceptions should not be made under any circumstances.

Results of the investigation

Many are unaware that Pfas can be active ingredients in pesticides or that products formulated with pesticides can contain these substances. A new Pan Europe report examines precisely the extent of this problem in detail.

Pfas are used as active ingredients to improve the stability of pesticides, thereby prolonging their effectiveness over time. Unlike PFAS pollution, which results from industrial releases through air emissions or water discharges, PFAS pesticides are widely used and intentionally sprayed directly into the environment.

Currently in Europe 37 active substances are approved for use in pesticides and are classified as Phew, representing 12% of all approved synthetics.

Below is a list of these substances.

pfas pesticides approved in Europe

@PanEurope

The report analyzes in particular the situation in France, where 30 active substances containing Pfas are currently permitted, which corresponds to 13% of all permitted synthetic substances. Sales of these substances have more than tripled since 2008, and in 2021 alone, 2,332 tons of pesticides containing Pfas were sold in France.

Why are these substances a threat? An analysis of the registration dossiers of the 10 most widespread Pfas in France shows that most of these compounds are persistent in the environment or give rise to persistent metabolites such as trifluoroacetic acid (TFA). This poses a significant risk of accumulation of these chemicals in the environment due to their repeated use in agriculture. In addition to their persistence, these substances exhibit other toxic properties that raise concerns about their impact on the environment and/or human health. For many of them, health authorities have identified unacceptable risks.

As we have already said, although Europe wants to reduce Pfas, those contained in pesticides seem to be untouchable. But as Pan Europe writes:

According to the Pesticide Regulation, pesticides allowed in the EU should not have harmful effects on humans or unacceptable effects on the environment. However, as our report reveals, the regulations are not being implemented in practice and harmful pesticides such as PFAS continue to be approved for use in the production of our food. The evaluation carried out by the health authorities has numerous shortcomings and allowed the authorization of the following extremely problematic substances:

  • Persistence alone is not considered a property of sufficient concern to ban pesticides
  • The toxic properties of PFAS metabolites have not been thoroughly evaluated.
  • The endocrine disrupting properties of PFAS are poorly evaluated
  • Cocktail effects are not evaluated, although products on the market sometimes contain multiple active PFAS ingredients

And that’s not all, experts point out insufficient risk management by public health authorities:

  • PFASs are routinely approved or extended even when health authorities have identified unacceptable risks (“hot spots”) or risk assessments have not been completed (data errors)
  • The active ingredients of PFAS pesticides considered “candidates for replacement” are not effectively replaced and continue to be used
  • For example, the permit for the most widespread PFAS pesticide, Flufenacet, a direct source of TFA in water, has been extended eight times pending the results of the re-evaluation.
  • Failure to apply the precautionary principle

It’s clear how it is Immediate action must be taken to ban them.

As he stated Salomé Roynel, Policy Director at PAN Europe:

There is an urgent need to ban this source of PFAS pollution. These pesticides should be included in the PFAS restrictions currently being prepared at European level. It will take time, so we need better enforcement of the pesticide regulations immediately. We propose to immediately apply the precautionary principle required by law and ban all PFAS pesticides.

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Source: Pan Europe

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