Press release: 9 November 2023
EU court again rules against Chemours on ‘forever chemicals’
Judge dismisses appeal against the inclusion of harmful GenX chemicals on the EU ‘substance of very high concern’ list.
BRUSSELS – The Court of Justice of the European Union has today ruled against chemicals company Chemours Netherlands in its appeal against the identification of ‘GenX’ chemicals as a ‘substance of very high concern’ by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
GenX chemicals are commonly used in the manufacture of non-stick products, but are associated with major health concerns, linked to tumours in rats, and toxicity in the kidneys, liver, blood, and immune system.
They are highly persistent and mobile – and therefore are almost impossible to eradicate from the environment once released. In 2019, Chemours – a spin-off of Teflon producer DuPont – challenged the ECHA decision before the EU General Court.
Environmental law organisation ClientEarth and chemicals charity CHEM Trust had intervened in the original case in support of ECHA together with the Dutch government. In 2022, the court dismissed Chemours’ claim – however, the company decided to appeal the decision, and it is this appeal that has been ruled on today.
A universal PFAS restriction is already underway - meaning that GenX chemicals are likely to soon be banned. However, today’s decision to keep them on the list places obligations on chemical companies and signals that the market should already start using alternatives.
By once again ruling against Chemours, the court is helping to protect the health and wellbeing of citizens across Europe, the organisations said.
ClientEarth chemicals lawyer Hélène Duguy said:
“Today’s ruling will ensure that GenX chemicals remain labelled as a substance of very high concern in the EU. Chemours has again failed to show that the court made any mistakes in upholding the decision from the experts at the European Chemicals Agency.
“Campaigners across Europe are working tirelessly to tackle chemical pollution and this ruling further helps their cause. As mounting evidence continues to show that forever chemicals are harmful, what more do we need to introduce a blanket ban on all PFAS?”
Dr Ninja Reineke, Head of Science at CHEM Trust said:
“The high persistence of GenX chemicals in combination with its high mobility and toxic properties means that the impacts will last even after exposure has stopped, leaving a toxic legacy for decades to come. Labelling them as being of very high concern is only the first step, we urgently need a ban on all PFAS chemicals to prevent contamination of the environment and future generations.”
GenX was introduced by DuPont in 2009 as a substitute for the now banned chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, harmful to reproductive health, used notably in the production of Teflon among other products. The chemical was infamously the subject of the landmark US legal battle that brought DuPont to justice for dumping PFOA in a landfill in West Virginia. The waste is thought to have contaminated the area, killed off cattle and caused locals to fall sick with cancer.
Much like PFOA, GenX has harmful properties. Studies have found that the chemical can induce tumours in rats, and is linked to toxicity in the liver, blood, kidneys and immune system.
Notes to editors:
- In 2019, ClientEarth and CHEM Trust intervened in support of the European Chemicals Agency and the Government of the Netherlands in its decision to identify GenX as a ‘substance of very high concern’, challenged by the company Chemours Netherlands before the EU Court of Justice.
- The General Court of the EU dismissed Chemours’ claim in a 2022 decision [Case T636/19]. Chemours appealed that decision.
- Today, the Court of Justice of the EU has dismissed Chemours’ appeal: CURIA - Documents (europa.eu)
GenX and PFAS
GenX chemicals are part of a larger family of chemicals known as PFAS or ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not degrade in the environment. The GenX technology was introduced by DuPont in 2009 as a replacement for another forever chemical called PFOA. A large epidemiological study in the US on the dangers of PFOA – which was undertaken following a massive lawsuit – found that it was linked to six major health issues: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. More information on GenX chemicals can be found at https://chemtrust.org/genx/ and https://chemtrust.org/genx-court-hearing/.
Several of them are also very mobile, meaning they can quickly contaminate the environment and also travel long distances – having even been detected in Arctic seawater.
PFOA was banned globally in 2019 after decades of delay, despite compelling evidence to support a ban having been in the public domain for years. Studies have shown that almost everyone has chemicals from the PFAS family in their bodies, including children as human biomonitoring shows. GenX chemicals were presented as a safer alternative to PFOA. But they have been found to be similarly problematic.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.
About CHEM Trust
CHEM Trust is a collaboration between CHEM Trust, a UK registered Charity and CHEM Trust Europe eV, which is a charity based in Germany. Both legal entities work closely together on projects under the name CHEM Trust. Our overarching aim is to prevent synthetic chemicals from causing long term damage to wildlife or humans, by ensuring that chemicals which cause such harm are substituted with safer alternatives.