National norms for toxic PFAS substances in DUTCH ground

30 september 2019

PFAS is a collective term for a group of toxic substances. Until recently we didn’t hear much about this. How different it is now! The Dutch Government has drawn up national norms for PFAS in the ground and aquatic sediment. This temporary plan of action (in Dutch: tijdelijk handelingskader) will become effective from 1 October 2019 onwards. A tough challenge for RAG certified companies…

PFAS is the name of an extensive collective group of toxic fluored hydrocarbons. PFAS consists of several substances, including GenX, PFOS (perfluorooctanoic acid). The toxic substances were used in the past during the production of among others Teflon (non-stick layer in pans) and products such as textile, carpet, paint and firefighting foam. PFAS substances are not broken down in nature, but pile up and because they are taken up by plants can end up in the food chain. Over the last couple of years the substances are mentioned more often in the news, because they are found in the soil and surface water. In high concentrations PFAS substances can have very harmful consequences for humans, animals and the environment.

Temporary plan of action PFAS

PFAS is found diffusely in the soil in the Netherlands and Europe and is measured in many places above the detection limit. The bottom-line of the temporary plan of action is to avoid the risks for health and environment, as well as the spreading of PFAS containing soil and aquatic sediment to other non-contaminated or less contaminated areas. The temporary plan of action PFAS determines that the soil may be used unlimitedly, but only if the PFAS level is lower than 0,1 microgram per kilo of soil (lower than 0,1 μg/kg ds). With levels between 0,1 and 3 μg/kg ds limitations apply.

Challenges for companies

Where environmental hygienic properties are concerned RAG certified raw materials need to comply with the requirements of AW2000. For PFAS this falls under the category < 0,1 – 3 μg/kg ds. Because in some raw materials levels have been found that are higher than 0,1 μg/kg ds, it can mean that limitations apply during delivery of a combined soil product. The PFAS norm only applies to raw materials that fall under the Dutch soil legislation 'Besluit Bodemkwaliteit'. The organic raw materials with RHP quality mark do not fall under this Dutch soil legislation and therefore do not need to be tested for PFAS.

Duty of care

For raw materials with such an exemption the duty of care still needs to be taken into account, such as included in the Dutch soil legislation 'Besluit Bodemkwaliteit'. In situations from which you can assume that there may be negative consequences from applying a raw material, measures need to be taken in order to avoid contamination or at least limit it as much as possible. The duty of care constitutes a safety net for situations that concern careless actions, without breaking a specific legal rule. The duty of care also applies to parameters for which no norms are included or in situations that are exempted from the compulsory quality determination. For many substrate raw materials there is currently nothing known about possible PFAS levels. Companies are therefore wise to research this as indication.

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