Three vice-presidents of the European Commission, the Environment Commissioner, the head of the European Environment Agency and nine Members of the European Parliament coming from different European countries were tested for the presence of 13 PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in their bodies. The tests were organized by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Swedish NGO ChemSec as well as Arnika.
Results reveal a troubling reality of the failure of chemicals control in Europe and the urgent need to regulate these hazardous substances: as a wide part of the European population, all subjects were contaminated with PFAS. Over half of the 13 “forever chemicals” analysed were found, namely PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, PFUnDA, PFHxS, PFHpS, and PFOS. Although some of these substances - known as ‘forever chemicals’ - have been banned because of their persistence and links to a range of serious health problems, they continue to be present in the environment and the bodies of animals and humans.
In a joint press release, the organisations state that the levels of PFAS in top politicians are not significantly different from the average exposure of Europeans. The tests therefore show that no one is immune to the exposure to persistent chemicals, not even high-ranking European officials.
In the Czech Republic, Arnika has provided free tests for the Minister of the Environment Petr Hladik, MEP candidates Danuše Nerudová and Jan Farský, and current MEPs Marcel Kolaja, Mikuláš Peksa and Markéta Gregorová.
"Thanks to Arnika, I learned more about 'forever chemicals', currently proposed for a universal restriction in the European Union. I took the test, which revealed the presence of these toxic substances in my blood, fortunately in lower concentrations than the average levels for the European population. My colleagues and I supported a ban on PFAS in food packaging last year. And I believe that more PFAS will be restricted soon until only those essential for the functioning of our society will remain," says Gregorová, MEP for the Pirate Party (Greens-EFA) since 2019.
Karolína Brabcová, an expert on toxic substances in consumer products from Arnika, also decided to share her test results: "Four of the 13 substances were found in my blood. Although the concentrations are lower than those of European politicians, some of the PFAS present in my blood have been banned for more than 10 years. 'Forever chemicals' continue to enter our bodies for many, many years after they have been released into the environment. However, many of the other 'forever chemicals' are not regulated, so any additional PFAS-containing products will add to the contamination of the environment and future generations. We should not allow that to happen.”
Brabcová and other experts are worried about the ubiquitous presence per- and polyfluorinated substances in the environment. "We find them in everyone. Both Markéta Gregorová and I are contaminated with them. They contribute to negative health effects including disruption of the thyroid hormone system. They are linked to the development of testicular or kidney cancer or leukemia in children whose mothers were exposed to higher doses of PFAS substances," adds Brabcová.
"Several PFAS were found in my blood. Since I am currently pregnant, I am aware that PFAS may be transferred through the placenta to my baby. Despite my responsible consumer choices, it is not in my power to protect my unborn child from the PFAS cocktail. I hope that European politicians will listen to citizen petition and proceed with banning these substances to protect the health of future generations," Jitka Straková shares her concern.
Arnika highltights he problem of widespread PFAS contamination for years. These substances can be found in Teflon cookware, water- and stain-repellent textiles, cosmetics or ski waxes. A recent study by Arnika and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) also discovered the presence of PFAS (including the globally banned and perfluorooctanoic acid, PFOA) in a wide range of children's outdoor jackets sold on the European market.
→ Download the study “Toxics in Our Clothing” HERE
These chemicals have been linked to a range of serious health problems, including cancer, infertility, birth defects and immune system disruption. But the toxicity of everyday items is only the beginning of the problem, as PFAS in general are extremely persistent and accumulate in the environment, posing a silent threat to public health in the future.
Many manufacturers are aware of PFAS toxicity and have changed their production to get rid of these harmful chemicals. And Arnika encourages legislators to restrict the use of persistent chemicals, especially in consumer products, within the framework of European legislation. Unfortunately, EU member states are reluctant to support both a universal PFAS restriction as well as sectoral bans such as the proposal to ban PFAS in food packaging, which was recently agreed by the European Parliament. Arnika has signed a letter with other NGOs calling for adopting the European Parliament decision.
Additionally, people can sign a European petition for Toxic-free Europe now! | WeMove Europe.