Concerns raised about industry influence over exemptions for cancer linked chemicals

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has expressed concerns to the European Commission over the involvement of an industry consultant in recommendations to create exemptions for the cancer linked chemical PFOA.

In a letter, co-signed with 19 other NGOs, the EEB are calling on the EU to avoid the conflict of interest and abandon the exemptions for cancer linked chemical PFOA developed by industry consultancy, BiPRO.

The EEB is the largest network of European Environmental NGOs with 140 members in over 30 countries. 

The EU contracted a company which subcontracted BiPRO to evaluate the risks of PFOA and develop exemptions for its use despite this company having clients who produce and use the chemical.

The recommendations are due to be presented to an upcoming meeting on of the expert committee of the Stockholm Convention on 17-20 October[1]. The Stockholm Convention is an international environmental treaty aimed to limit the use of highly polluting chemicals known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
PFOA is a chemical used in the production of Teflon which his used in kitchenware and clothing. It has been linked to testicular, kidney, and thyroid cancer in studies.

Dolores Romano, EEB Senior Policy Officer said:

“It is not appropriate for the EU to select an industry consultancy with clients who make or use fluorinated chemicals to propose global exemptions for continued use of a fluorinated chemical such as PFOA.

“We expect the EU to demonstrate leadership in the Stockholm Convention process and that means prioritizing human health and the environment, not industry sales and profit.”

NGOs call on the EU to exert leadership in the Stockholm Convention PFOA listing process. This means acting on three points:

  1. Prioritize protection of human health and the environment by supporting a recommendation to list PFOA in Annex A of the treaty and minimize the number of exemptions. Few of the proposed exemptions can be justified based on Convention objectives;
  2. Rectify conflict of interest issues by assuming full responsibility for the PFOA nomination and not utilize BiPRO any further for matters related to fluorinated compounds or other substances that create a real or perceived conflict of interest;
  3. Utilize the Stockholm Convention process to strengthen the EU’s weak PFOA regulation, rather than seeking to globalize it.


In 2015, the EU nominated PFOA, a fluorinated chemical, for listing in the Stockholm Convention and agreed to lead the evaluation drafting process. However, instead of carrying out the work in-house, the EU hired an industry consultancy (BiPRO)[2]. BiPRO’s client list includes companies that make and/or use fluorinated chemicals, including PFOA. This raises serious concerns about conflict of interest. The current EU/BiPRO draft proposes a sweeping set of industry-driven exemptions that undermine a global ban of this dangerous, highly toxic chemical.

PFOA never breaks down and is extremely harmful. In 2016, the treaty’s expert committee agreed that PFOA is linked to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy induced hypertension in humans.[3]

The October 2017 letter is follow-up to a previous EEB letter in 2016 expressing concerns over the weak EU PFOA regulation.[4]

[2] BiPRO’s corporate clients include CEFIC, Saint-Gobain, Dow Europe GmbH, Bayer AG, 3M, RAG Aktiengesellschaft, Daimler AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, H.C. Starck, TIMCAL AG, Federation of European Producers of Abrasives, Silicon Carbide Manufacturers Association, Association of German Abrasive Manufacturers, Deutscher Industrieverband Keramische Fliesen und Platten e.V.
[3] UNEP (2017) Draft risk management evaluation pentadecafluorooctanoic acid (CAS No: 335-67-1, PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid), its salts and PFOA-related compounds, Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee, UNEP/POPS/POPRC.13/3

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