Danish government criticised for failure to reduce PFAS contamination

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish government criticised for failure to reduce PFAS contamination
Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke has pledged a "service check" after two ministries were criticised by the state auditor over PFAS contamination and management going back to 2007. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish national auditor Rigsrevisionen has criticised both the Environment and Defence ministries for failing to limit the use and emission of the controversial ‘forever chemical’ PFAS over a period spanning several years.


Minister of the Environment Magnus Heunicke acknowledged in a statement on Monday that too little had been done to limit PFAS contamination in Denmark.

That came after newspaper Politiken reported that the national auditor Rigsrevisionen, which reports to the Danish parliament, has issued robust criticism of both ministries.

“We must be completely sure that we have corrected all the errors in authorities’ management of PFAS,” Heunicke said.

“We are therefore now initiating a wide-ranging service check of the relevant environmental authorities that have dealings with PFAS,” he said.


READ ALSO: Danish agency says organic eggs no longer contain increased PFAS

In its report to the Public Accounts Committee (Statsrevisorerne), the state auditor said that work by the finance and defence ministries related to PFAS in the years 2007-2021 were “very dissatisfactory”.

Opposition party the Socialist People’s Party (SF) has called for Heunicke to answer to a parliamentary committee over the report.

“The [state auditor’s] criticism is serious and I am disturbed by how much the Ministry for the Environment has actually failed its responsibilities on this issue,” SF environment spokesperson Carl Valentin said in a statement.

“The spread of PFAS has potentially major consequences for human health and we don’t yet know the full extent of its effect on nature,” he said.

“Regardless of this, large companies have been allowed to use it in everything from tooth floss to children’s snow suits,” he said.

What are PFAS? 

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in various products since the early 1950s. Their past uses include foam in fire extinguishers, food packaging and in textiles, carpets and paints. Also known as ‘forever chemicals’, they persist in water and soil and can cause harm to human health. 

Due to their chemical properties, they take a long time to break down and can be found in very low concentrations in blood samples from populations all over the world.

They are, however, unwanted in the environment because they have been found to have concerning links to health complications. Their use in materials which come into contact with foods, like paper and card, has been banned in Denmark since 2020.

PFAS have been linked to a series of health complications and, if ingested in high enough amounts, are suspected of causing liver damage, kidney damage, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced fertility, hormonal disturbances, weaker immune systems, negatively affecting foetal development and being carcinogenic.

READ ALSO: PFAS pollution: What do people living in Denmark need to know?



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