Despite criticism from industry, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke maintains that she wants to restrict substances such as the so-called PFAS chemicals.

“PFAS are substances that accumulate in the environment. We find them all over the globe, in Antarctica, in the seas, in the forests. And they can cause health damage in the human body,” the Green politician told the German press -Agency on the sidelines of the World Chemicals Conference in Bonn. “That’s why it’s absolutely clear that we have to find better solutions here.” There needs to be “definite restrictions on these substances, which are very dangerous”.

The PFAS chemical group is estimated to include over 10,000 individual substances that are used in everyday products such as anoraks, pans and cosmetics. In industry they are used in seals, insulation or cables. Lithium-ion batteries, for example for electric cars, also rely on PFAS.

Associations warn of threats to high-tech industries

There is discussion in the European Union about a possible ban on PFAS, which are also called forever chemicals because of their longevity. One proposal provides for transition periods depending on the application. There would be unlimited exceptions for a few areas. The decision is ultimately made by the European Commission together with the EU member states.

Industry groups had warned against a comprehensive ban on PFAS chemicals. The ban being discussed in the EU would be an enormous threat to high-tech industries such as medical or semiconductor technology, warned the mechanical engineering association VDMA and the German industrial association for optics, photonics, analysis and medical technology Spectaris.

The FDP parliamentary group also rejects a restriction. “The EU over-regulation, as with PFAS, endangers our competitiveness,” said FDP parliamentary group vice-president Carina Konrad. “We need evidence-based solutions that take the economy and the environment into account.” The FDP is committed to responsible use of PFAS that preserves its benefits for business and medicine, and expects the federal government to speak out in favor of this at the European level.