In July, the court of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)-ruled that Norway’s law banning perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from consumer products and textiles is legal. The plaintiffs, the EFTA Surveillance Authority, had accused Norway of preempting the European-wide REACH law. The complaint states that Norway had violated Article 11 of the EEA Agreement that forbids states that have ratified the agreement from limiting any imports. According to the suit, only EU regulations are legally binding.
Norway had modified its product regulations as early as May 2013 and limited the use of PFOA. It based its decision on Article 128 (2) of REACH. The article allows a country to enact its own laws in cases “where REACH does not harmonize the requirements on manufacture, placing on the market, or use.”
In its judgement, the court stated that the application and use of PFOA in the EU was not at all regulated when the Norwegian law went into effect, so that a violation of REACH was impossible. Accordingly, no valid objections to the Norwegian law exist.
The EU Commission caught up with Norway only in June of this year and included PFOA in Annex XVII of REACH. The regulation grants companies a three-year period in which to react to the limitations.
PFOA is part of a group of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFC). In September 2015, the German government replied to a parliamentary inquiry from Alliance Bündnis90/The Greens about the diffusion and dangers of PFC (German only).
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