EU court rejects Chemours appeal on ‘forever chemical’ GenX

One entrance to the Chemours plant. Photo: Dutch News

The EU’s top court dealt a further blow to chemical company Chemours on Thursday, as it rejected an appeal concerning the identification of ‘GenX’ as a ‘substance of very high concern’.

GenX was introduced by DuPont in 2009 as a substitute for the now banned PFOA, a chemical used in the production of Teflon that was found to be harmful to health.

GenX chemicals are used in the manufacture of non-stick products, but studies have linked them to tumours in rats, and toxicity in the kidneys, liver, blood and the immune system, environmental campaigners argue.

These substances are part of a larger group of chemicals known as PFAS, which are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not degrade in the environment.

“They are highly persistent and mobile and therefore are almost impossible to eradicate from the environment once released,” said green group ClientEarth in a statement.

Under EU chemicals regulations, substances of ‘very high concern’ have hazardous properties for human health and the environment, including causing cancer. EU law requires companies to manage the risk, inform consumers and replace them safer alternatives.

In 2019, based on a dossier submitted by Dutch authorities, the European Chemicals Agency classified GenX as a substance of very high concern and Chemours Netherlands decided to challenge the decision before the EU Court of Justice.

In 2022, the court dismissed the action, but the company appealed. On Thursday, the EU Court ruled again against Chemours.

The European Union is currently discussing a ban of the entire PFAS family, including GenX chemicals, but the process will last years.

In the meantime, ClientEarth lawyers said the EU Court decision will keep GenX labelled as a ‘substance of very high concern’ with related obligations on manufacturers.

More legal action

Chemours/Dupont has recently been under fire for dumping waste into the environment. In August an outdoor swimming spot near the Dordrecht plant was closed to the public because the water was found to be polluted with PFAS.

In October the Dutch public prosecution department launched a criminal investigation into pollution from PFOA and GenX from the plant in the period up to 2012.

Research by the Health and Environment Alliance, a European coalition of health and environmental organisations, has found that over half the people studied in Dordrecht had levels of PFOA in their blood “warranting protective action”.

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