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Danish government to ban import of clothes containing 'forever chemical' PFAS

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish government to ban import of clothes containing 'forever chemical' PFAS
Denmark is set to ban PFAS in clothes and shoes. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Denmark’s government plans to introduce a national ban on the harmful ‘forever chemical’ PFAS in clothing and shoes.

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The decision to cut out PFAS in imported and Danish clothing products was announced by the Ministry of Environment in a statement.

“A national ban on the import and sale of clothes, shoes and waterproofing agents with PFAS is an important step on the way to limiting its emissions and will have a genuine environmental effect in Denmark,” Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke said in the statement.

READ ALSO: Danish government criticised for failure to reduce PFAS contamination

Clothing, shoes and waterproofing agents are among the largest sources of PFAS in Denmark’s environment, according to the ministry.

Non-PFAS containing products are available as alternative options on the market, making a ban viable, it said in the statement.

An exception would apply for professional and safety clothing, which have different safety and functionality standards.

Project leader with the consumer interest group Forbrugerrådet Tænk, Claus Jørgensen, praised the announcement but said he would prefer the ban to be extended to child strollers, furniture and carpets.

The national ban would apply until any EU ban on PFAS in products comes into force, the ministry said.

Business organisations raised concerns over enforcement of a ban that would apply in Denmark but not the EU.

“Shops and retailers trade on the international market, where there is no production specifically for Denmark,” the Danish Chamber of Commerce’s environment and circular economy manager Anette Ejersted said.

“We therefore want to see the final proposal to assess how it will affect the retail trade in Denmark,” she said.

The government is expected to prepare an executive order for the ban by July 1st next year, with a one-year phasing in period, making it effective from July 2026. It will not apply to products purchased before this date.

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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.

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