June 14, 2005
Sweden calls for world ban on PFOS chemical
By Daniel Frykholm
STOCKHOLM, June 14 (Reuters) - Sweden will this week propose
a global ban on a chemical which may cause liver damage and is
used by a number of industries including semiconductor makers,
the country's Environment Ministry said on Tuesday.
PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate, has been investigated as
a potentially hazardous chemical by several countries because
it does not biodegrade in the environment, posing a potential
health risk to both animals and humans.
"Very high rates of PFOS have been found in polar bears,
polar foxes, eagles and seals. Low doses ... have in animal studies
shown effects on the liver and disturbances of reproductive capabilities,"
the ministry said in a statement.
The chemical, or related substances that degrade into it, has
been used in products ranging from flame retardants to paint thinners
and glue. But usage dropped after U.S. conglomerate 3M <MMM.N>
discovered its water and stain repellents were degrading into
But it is still a part of making semiconductors, used in high-tech
equipment such as cellphones and computers, as well as when treating
some metals and in making photographic paper.]
Sweden said the semiconductor industry should get a waiver for
five years in order to develop viable options to PFOS.
"An immediate phase-out of PFOS-related substances would
likely have serious consequences for the semiconductor industry
and its competitiveness," the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate
said in a research paper prepared for the ministry.
German chipmaker Infineon <IFXGn.DE>
said the European semiconductor industry used 43 kg of PFOS each
year and had no alternative, but argued that it posed no threat
to the environment or to workers thanks to minimal leaks.
"We assume that if there is a ban an exception will be made
for the semiconductor industry," Infineon spokesman Reiner
Schoenrock told Reuters.
Sweden said it would propose a ban to the
United Nations under the Stockholm Convention to eliminate so-called
persistent organic pollutants.
It also filed a national ban on PFOS to the European Commission,
which will review the legislation before it can come into effect.
Britain also has a ban pending approval by the EU.
"My hope is that more EU countries will go ahead with national
bans and that this will pressure the Commission into an EU-wide
ban," Environment Minister Lena Sommestad said.
Sweden said PFOS were also present in hydraulic oils used in
airplanes, but that these cases would get an indefinite waiver
as there were no alternatives in view.
(Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt)