Read the full article by Tom Perkins (The Guardian)
“The societal cost of using toxic PFAS or ‘forever chemicals’ across the global economy totals about $17.5tn annually, a new analysis of the use of the dangerous compounds has found.
Meanwhile, the chemicals yield comparatively paltry profits for the world’s largest PFAS manufacturers – about $4bn annually.
The report, compiled by ChemSec, a Belgium-based NGO that works with industry and policymakers to limit the use of toxic chemicals, partially aims to highlight how the ‘astronomical’ cost of using PFAS is shouldered by governments typically forced to fund the clean up of pollution and individuals who suffer from health consequences.
‘If you compare the profits that they make and the cost to society – it’s ridiculous,’ said Peter Pierrou, ChemSec’s communications director.
PFAS are a class of about 15,000 chemicals often used to make products resistant to water, stains and heat. The chemicals are ubiquitous, and linked at low levels of exposure to cancer, thyroid disease, kidney dysfunction, birth defects, autoimmune disease and other serious health problems.
They are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally degrade.
The chemicals are thought to be contaminating drinking water for at least 200m Americans, while watchdogs have identified thousands of industrial polluters. Similar widespread contamination persists throughout Europe.
ChemSec found 12 companies account for most of the world’s PFAS production and pollution. Among them are 3M, Chemours, Solvay, Daiki, Honeywell, BASF, Merk and Bayer, though 3M this year announced it would discontinue making PFAS in part because of regulatory pressure and litigation.
The report grew out of ChemSec’s work with investment firms to pressure companies to eliminate PFAS, Pierrou said. A letter on the issue circulated late last year and now signed by largely European Union investment firms holding $11tn in assets cites recent litigation brought against PFAS manufacturers, ever-increasing regulation that imposes strict limits on the chemicals’ use and the compounds’ public health threat.
Investors have raised questions about companies’ PFAS production and uses, Pierrou added, but industry often tries to keep information around the chemicals from public view as it attempts to evade account or protect ‘trade secrets’.
‘There is low transparency and there is so much we don’t know,’ Pierrou said. ‘[Investment firms] have the power to ask these questions because they own part of the company, so they have the right to ask ‘What’s going on here?’’
The analysis broke down societal costs into four categories. Soil and water remediation are the most expensive, followed by healthcare costs and bio-monitoring of PFAS pollution.
While the average market price of PFAS is about €19 (about $20.75) for each kilogram, the price spikes to about €18,734 ($20,456.78) for each kilogram when societal costs are factored in.
Beyond profits and pollution, the analysis also provides a closer look at how the chemicals are used across the economy, and whether those uses are ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’. Those questions are likely to become a focal point in the debate over the chemicals’ use in upcoming years as proposed legislation in the EU would ban the chemicals except for essential uses, and a law passed in Maine that goes into effect in 2030 takes a similar approach.”…