PFAS in waters of 16 regions. Emergency in Veneto

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PFAS in drinking water

PFAS, toxic chemicals and in some cases already classified as carcinogenic, are present in all Italian waterways and sometimes even in drinking water. The data is relaunched by Greenpeace, which invites people to sign a petition to ban these pollutants in Italy. (1,2)

The source of PFAS pollution

PFOA and PFOS (the most studied PFAS) are widely used in industrial applications and consumer products due to their hydrophobicity and lipophobicity, surfactant properties, and chemical stability.

Consumer items the most common ones that contain PFAS are:

– coating treatments resistant to stains, oil and water of materials and objects intended for contact with food (MOCA). Paper and cardboard, disposable containers and tableware, non-stick cooking bases (e.g. Teflon) and pots. Electrical cable coverings

– surface treatments, in particular of textile products (carpets, stain-resistant upholstery, waterproof fabrics such as Goretex), leather and photographic films, inks

– paints, fire-fighting foams, packaging, furniture, etc.

Four regions in the dark

The data on the search for PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) in the waters are missing for four southern Italian regions. In Puglia, Sardinia, Molise and Calabria, from 2017 to 2022, there is no control.

In the rest of the country, the findings – collected in the Ispra database and processed by Greenpeace – always confirm the presence of PFAS at more or less high levels.

Search

The intensity and accuracy of the analyzes favors the emergence of pollution that is underestimated elsewhere. The greater frequency of positive cases must therefore be balanced with the higher research activity.

Almost 70% of the analyses national tests are carried out in only four regions of Northern Italy: Veneto and Piedmont, affected by well-documented contamination, Lombardy and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Three regions with over 30% positivity

The highest percentage of positive analyzes compared to the checks carried out between 2019 and 2022 emerges in
– Basilicata (31%)
– Veneto (30%)
– Liguria (30%).

In six other regions the positivity rate is above 10%:
– Lombardia
– Toscana
– Lazio
– Umbria
– Abruzzo
– Campania.

The Veneto case

In Veneto the highest concentrations of PFOA (a molecule carcinogenic to humans) and PFOS are recorded.

The region is afflicted by one of the most serious PFAS contaminations in all of Europe which also involves the drinking water of several municipalities in the provinces of Vicenza, Verona and Padua.

Piedimonte polluted by the former Solvay

Piedimonte in turn it stands out for particularly high concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in the water bodies affected by the discharges of the chemical company Solvay (now Syensqo), the only active producer of PFAS in Italy.

A follow, by intensity of PFOA, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio.

We need a national law

The situation represented by ISPRA data is serious, but the reality could be even worse because it is partial data. 

To protect the environment and people’s health, the United States and several European countries have already adopted some limits on the use of PFAS, replacing them with safer alternatives already available.

To our government we ask to do the same with a national law that limits the use and production of these dangerous substances‘, says Giuseppe Ungherese of Greenpeace.

Non-compliant European Commission

These data confirm the absolute necessity of banning the production and use of PFAS in any industrial sector.

The outgoing European Commission should have introduced this ban in the long-awaited structural reform of the Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation, which instead failed to adopt‘, says Dario Dongo, founder of GIFT and candidate (, here the program) in the North-East in the 2024 European elections with the Peace, Earth, Dignity movement.

Marta Strinati

Footnotes

(1) Giuseppe Ungherese. Sixteen regions in Italy have waterways contaminated with PFAS, dangerous chemicals. Greenpeace. 28.5.24 https://www.greenpeace.org/italy/storia/23471/sedici-regioni-in-italia-hanno-i-corsi-dacqua-contaminati-da-pfas-sostanze-chimiche-pericolose/

(2) Greenpeace petition ‘Ask the Italian government to ban PFAS’ https://attivati.greenpeace.it/petizioni/zero-pfas/?utm_source=greenpeace.org&utm_medium=news&utm_campaign=pfas&utm_content=report-ispra

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".