PFOS 2005
August 16, 2005. North Sea: Oil industry released tons of toxic pollutant.
Press Release. Friends of the Earth Norway.

Return to
PFOA Class Action Suit
Newspaper articles and Documents related to PFOA Class Action

See brief introduction to PFOA and PFOS


PRESS RELEASE: Friends of the Earth Norway

August 16, 2005


OSLO, NORWAY - More than 80 tons of the toxic pollutant known as
Perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) have been flushed directly into the sea
by Norwegian oil rigs between 1980 and 2005, according to the first ever
estimate of the amount of this toxic pollutant discharged by Norwegian oil rigs

The new estimate [1], made by Friends of the Earth Norway and revealed
today, is based on new data requested by the Norwegian Pollution Control
Authority SFT from oil companies operating in Norway.

Norway is the world’s third largest exporter of oil products after Saudi
Arabia and Russia, and accounts for 4% of the global production.

PFOS is an industrial chemical used in a wide range of products. Until
recently vast quantities were used in fire-fighting foam. The substance
poses a serious environmental and health threat, even in very small
amounts, and accumulates in fish, marine mammals, birds and humans.

“Oil rig operators have discharged fire-fighting foams called "Light
Water AFFF" directly into the sea during tests, spills and false
alarms,” said today marine biologist Per-Erik Schulze of Friends of the
Earth Norway.

“Oil rig operators continue to discharge at sea PFOS even though its
adverse effects to the ecosystem have been internationally known since
the year 2000,” he added.

The international manufacturer of "Light Water AFFF" fire-fighting
foams, 3M, stopped producing them in 2003 due to health and
environmental risks.

Alarmingly, 17 tons of PFOS are still stored at Norwegian oil rigs for
future use and discharge.

PFOS have contaminated the North Sea food chain, according to some
studies. A 2004 survey of samples of livers from North Sea harbour
porpoises found PFOS levels close to the levels that were shown to have
adverse effects on mammals in laboratory trials. Harbour porpoise is a
small toothed whale which spends considerable time on the continental
shelf and relatively shallow banks of the North Sea. Its main food is
herring, capelin and codfish. This is to a large extent the same fish
that commercial fishing fleets go after in the North Sea.

Friends of the Earth Norway urges Norwegian authorities to take action
without delay and points out three priorities:

1. Ban all further use of PFOS in the oil industry with immediate effect

2. Safely remove and dispose existing fire-fighting foam containing PFOS
from oil and gas installations

3. Warn the authorities of other countries with offshore activities that
oil installations potentially are a major source of PFOS contamination.

Per-Erik Schulze, marine biologist and toxic campaigner, tel.: +47 418
56 697, e-mail:
Kåre Olerud, head of information and international coordinator, tel.:
+47 950 73 320, e-mail:

[1] Friends of The Earth Norway’s detailed estimate is available online

It is a summary and analysis of the raw data reported from each oil
company to the SFT, June 2005, regarding their historical discharges of
fire fighting foams. No official report from the companies or the
Norwegian government is yet available.

Friends of the Earth Norway (FoEN) is Norway’s largest and oldest
environmental NGO with a five decades long history of monitoring marine
pollution. FoEN urges its sister organisations in countries with
offshore petroleum industry to follow up the issue with their respective
national authorities.

The extent of PFOS discharges by the oil industry has been kept a secret
until recently. This summer the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority
(SFT) collected information from oil companies operating in Norwegian
waters on their use of PFOS. The material from this survey was made
available for FoEN to analyze

The multinational company 3M was the main producer of PFOS, but
abandoned production in 2003 due to the health and environmental risks

The regional fire-fighting foam distributor, Norwegian company Solberg
Scandinavian, last year declined to have talks with FoEN.

Facts and figures

Based on the available documentation from SFT, the oil industry in
Norwegian waters alone discharged a total of up to 7,5 tons PFOS
annually. This matches closely the sum of all currently known use of
PFOS within the EU (i.e. land-based use. No statistics are available for
offshore use.)

FoEN calculated that historical and ongoing emissions from each oil
field amount to around 100 kg PFOS per year.
The highest documented
average annual discharge is 400kg PFOS from Statoil’s “Gullfaks A”. In
addition FoEN suggests that ConocoPhillip’s huge Ekofisk field might
have had even higher emissions.

Estimated historical discharge by operator in Norway
(in kilograms of pure PFOS):

Statoil 44508
Hydro 12682
Shell 1215
BP 3701
Total 6885
Exxon 1150
Talisman 149
ConocoPhillips About 12000

FoEN expects the above figures to increase when information on the use
of PFOS at oil fields now closed and land-based installations in Norway
will be released . The present total of about 80 tons PFOS has been
spread from the operators’ 45 oil fields located offshore along Norway’s
west coast close to important fishing and spawning grounds.

Alarmingly, 17 tons of PFOS are still stored at the oilrigs for future
use and discharge.

In comparison it should be noted that in a recent risk assessment report
by the UK Environmental Agency, the total EU emissions of PFOS from
fire-fighting foams to water from land-based sources were estimated to
285 kg per year. No estimate on offshore sources has been available
until now.

Health and environmental risks

PFOS meets all the criteria for being classified as a POP (Persistent
Organic Pollutant with the potential for long range transport) and a PBT
substance (Persistent, Bio accumulating and Toxic). This means that the
industry and the national governments have an obligation to act with
zero emissions as the target.

PFOS’s demonstrated ability to cause dramatic reproductive and
developmental effects in second and third generation is only one reason
for concern. Even small amount of PFOS can cause liver enlargement,
abnormal cell function, wasting syndrome (loss of appetite followed by
rapid weight loss), delayed brain development, with adverse effects on
the nerve system and death as the final outcome.

Recent risk evaluations by the US, UK and Sweden environmental agencies
regard PFOS as posing an unacceptable health risk to humans and marine
life due to secondary poisoning (poisoning through the consumption of
contaminated fish and other marine food).

The Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate has evaluated the levels of PFOS in
European human blood serum to be exceeding the safe limits.

-- END --

Fluoride Action Network | Pesticide Project | 315-379-9200 |