PRESS RELEASE: Friends of the Earth Norway
August 16, 2005
NORTH SEA: OIL INDUSTRY RELEASED TONS
OF TOXIC POLLUTANT
OSLO, NORWAY - More than 80 tons of the
toxic pollutant known as
Perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) have been flushed directly into
by Norwegian oil rigs between 1980 and 2005, according to the
estimate of the amount of this toxic pollutant discharged by Norwegian
The new estimate , made by Friends of the Earth Norway and
today, is based on new data requested by the Norwegian Pollution
Authority SFT from oil companies operating in Norway.
Norway is the world’s third largest exporter of oil products
Arabia and Russia, and accounts for 4% of the global production.
PFOS is an industrial chemical used in a wide range of products.
recently vast quantities were used in fire-fighting foam. The
poses a serious environmental and health threat, even in very
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
alarms,” said today marine biologist Per-Erik Schulze of
Friends of the
“Oil rig operators continue to discharge at sea PFOS even
adverse effects to the ecosystem have been internationally known
the year 2000,” he added.
The international manufacturer of "Light Water AFFF"
foams, 3M, stopped producing them in 2003
due to health and
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
studies. A 2004 survey of samples of livers from North Sea harbour
porpoises found PFOS levels close to the levels that were shown
adverse effects on mammals in laboratory trials. Harbour porpoise
small toothed whale which spends considerable time on the continental
shelf and relatively shallow banks of the North Sea. Its main
herring, capelin and codfish. This is to a large extent the same
that commercial fishing fleets go after in the North Sea.
Friends of the Earth Norway urges Norwegian authorities to take
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT FRIENDS OF THE EARTH NORWAY:
Per-Erik Schulze, marine biologist and toxic campaigner, tel.:
56 697, e-mail: email@example.com
Kåre Olerud, head of information and international coordinator,
+47 950 73 320, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 Friends of The Earth Norway’s detailed estimate is available
It is a summary and analysis of the raw data reported from each
company to the SFT, June 2005, regarding their historical discharges
fire fighting foams. No official report from the companies or
Norwegian government is yet available.
Friends of the Earth Norway (FoEN) is Norway’s largest and
environmental NGO with a five decades long history of monitoring
pollution. FoEN urges its sister organisations in countries with
offshore petroleum industry to follow up the issue with their
The extent of PFOS discharges by the oil industry has been kept
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
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
The regional fire-fighting foam distributor, Norwegian company
Scandinavian, last year declined to have talks with FoEN.
Facts and figures
Based on the available documentation from SFT, the oil industry
Norwegian waters alone discharged a total of up to 7,5 tons PFOS
annually. This matches closely the sum of all currently known
PFOS within the EU (i.e. land-based use. No statistics are available
FoEN calculated that historical and ongoing
emissions from each oil
field amount to around 100 kg PFOS per year. The highest
average annual discharge is 400kg PFOS from Statoil’s “Gullfaks
addition FoEN suggests that ConocoPhillip’s huge Ekofisk
have had even higher emissions.
Estimated historical discharge by operator in Norway
(in kilograms of pure PFOS):
ConocoPhillips About 12000
FoEN expects the above figures to increase when information on
of PFOS at oil fields now closed and land-based installations
will be released . The present total of about 80 tons PFOS has
spread from the operators’ 45 oil fields located offshore
west coast close to important fishing and spawning grounds.
Alarmingly, 17 tons of PFOS are still stored at the oilrigs for
use and discharge.
In comparison it should be noted that in a recent risk assessment
by the UK Environmental Agency, the total EU emissions of PFOS
fire-fighting foams to water from land-based sources were estimated
285 kg per year. No estimate on offshore
sources has been available
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
industry and the national governments have an obligation to act
zero emissions as the target.
PFOS’s demonstrated ability to cause dramatic reproductive
developmental effects in second and third generation is only one
for concern. Even small amount of PFOS can cause liver enlargement,
abnormal cell function, wasting syndrome (loss of appetite followed
rapid weight loss), delayed brain development, with adverse effects
the nerve system and death as the final outcome.
Recent risk evaluations by the US, UK and Sweden environmental
regard PFOS as posing an unacceptable health risk to humans and
life due to secondary poisoning (poisoning through the consumption
contaminated fish and other marine food).
The Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate has evaluated the levels of
European human blood serum to be exceeding the safe limits.
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