Commission proposal on water pollutants lacks measures to make European waters safe and healthy

Posted on 31 January 2012    
Man-made chemicals can be bad for health and the environment.
© WWF/Andrew KERR

Brussels/Belgium – Today the European Commission published its delayed proposal to add 15 new chemicals to the current list of 33 dangerous water pollutants that need to be tackled across the EU most urgently.

WWF criticises that the Commission’s proposal falls short in specifying by when and how existing EU policies such as REACH regulation on chemicals or pesticides legislation should be used to control pollution by these chemicals.

Sergey Moroz, Senior Water Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office says:

“Without clear timelines and triggers for action under related legislation, EU will fail to stop discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous chemicals, as required by the Water Framework Directive as well as EU’s international commitments. The presence of highly hazardous chemicals in our waters is a serious threat to aquatic life and human health. The European Parliament and EU ministers will have to strengthen today’s proposal to make European waters safe and healthy.” 

The listed substances range from industrial and household chemicals to pesticides and pharmaceuticals that can end up in our waters as the result of manufacturing processes, agricultural practices or use in our homes. The list  includes toxic substances such as  cypermethrin, (an insecticide still used in Europe but banned in Canada due to its  toxicity to lobsters), chemicals which can cause cancers  such as dioxins or impair reproduction in wildlife and humans such as PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid). Most hazardous of these chemicals are to be phased out and banned from the market, while for the others the proposal sets limits in their concentration in water.

WWF also believes that the listing of new emerging pollutants needs to be improved. The European Environment Agency recently warned that more needs to be done to address the water pollution in Europeans ecosystems, including pollution at source.

Ninja Reineke, Senior Policy Officer Chemicals/Water adds:

“There are hundreds of toxic chemicals out there, posing a potential threat to European waters and human health. Currently monitoring is done only on a very limited number of substances. This needs to be expanded to address new risky pollutants.”

Further information:
Stefania Campogianni, Media and Communication Officer, WWF European Policy Office, Tel. +32 (0)2 743 88 15, Mob: 0499 539736

Sergiy Moroz, Senior Policy Officer Water, WWF European Policy Office, Tel. +32 (0)2 740 09 23, Mob: 0499 539734

Ninja Reineke, Senior Policy Officer Chemicals/Water, WWF European Policy Office, Tel. +32 (0)2 740 09 26, Mob: 0497506805

Man-made chemicals can be bad for health and the environment.
© WWF/Andrew KERR Enlarge