Investigative journalists reveal extensive PFAS contamination in Europe

Investigative journalists reveal extensive PFAS contamination in Europe

More than 17.000 sites all over Europe are contaminated by PFAS, an exclusive, months-long investigation from 18 European newsrooms shows. PFAS is a collective name for chemical substances that occur in, for example, non-stick coatings and water-repellent materials. These toxic and possibly carcinogenic substances remain in the environment forever, hence the name ‘forever chemicals’. An online map shows that the infection is spreading throughout Europe.

Contamination sites

The investigation The Forever Pollution Project reveals an additional 21.000 presumptive contamination sites due to current or past industrial activity. The researchers also revealed extensive lobbying to water down the proposed EU-wide PFAS ban. The research has been published in dozens of different media outlets, including The Guardian and NRC (in Dutch). You can read more about the research on the campaign site.

Arena for Journalism en Journalism Fund EU

Two of our partners were directly involved in setting up this investigation. Arena for Journalism in Europe was approached for this project and helped coordinate and scale the team across Europe, raising the number of countries of publication from five to thirteen. Our partner the Journalism Fund EU was one of the funders of the journalists.

EU-wide restriction

This cross-border investigation is also very meaningful for our partners working on chemicals and PFAS pollution. The publication comes at a crucial time as the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published a draft proposal earlier this month for an EU-wide restriction on the production and uses of thousands of PFAS. “It is today impossible to turn a blind eye to the reality of PFAS pollution, which concerns us all and will not be erased by a magic wand”, said Natacha Cingotti, Programme Lead on Health and Chemicals of our partner Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). Research like this will only strengthen the case of HEAL and other partners to urge European and national decision-makers to support universal PFAS restriction.

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