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EU committee lists persistent mobile substances as emerging issue

Biocides - Tapwater ©Dmitry Naumov -

An EU science committee has identified persistent, mobile and toxic substances (PMTs) as one of 14 emerging issues that could impact on human health or the environment in the future.

The list of emerging issues comes in a statement from the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (Scheer) on 11 January. The foreword says that this will be used when discussing potential mandates from the European Commission.

Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has proposed the PMT substances should be identified as substances of very high concern (SVHCs) under REACH. The topic was discussed last year at a two-day workshop run by UBA and the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI).

The aim of the UBA proposal is to protect humans and the environment from substances that have the potential to circulate very widely in water systems and contaminate, in particular, drinking water.

Industry is opposed to it, warning of a rush to regrettable regulation.

In the statement, Scheer says that EU legislation on persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs) – such as REACH – "pays insufficient attention to the drinking water function of our surface waters and groundwater. After all, there are substances that do not accumulate very much but that are very difficult to remove from water."

The Scheer member who acted as "initiator" for the entry on PMTs was Pim de Voogt, professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Amsterdam.

Also identified as emerging issues are:

  • chemicals in recycled materials – an issue for a circular economy;
  • drinking water treatment interactions with compounds and potential health effects;
  • per- and polyfluorinated organic substances;
  • micro and nano-plastic in the environment; and
  • nanoparticles released from building materials and construction waste to the environment.

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