French PFAS ban exempts cookware, clears National Assembly


Apr. 11, 2024

Last week, the French National Assembly adopted a bill aiming to restrict the presence of PFAS in certain consumer products. The bill, which would be the first of its kind among EU member states, has been the subject of intense lobbying, which ultimately resulted in the exemption of kitchen utensils and cookware.

Regulatory Background

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are commonly used in textiles, impregnation agents, paints, firefighting foams (AFFF) and many other applications, have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, developmental effects and immunosuppression. The carbon-fluorine bonds that make PFAS effective for creating materials resistant to water, heat, oil and dirt also make them resistant to environmental degradation. This leads to their troubling capacity to accumulate in organisms and the environment, potentially intensifying their damaging effects. This extreme durability over time has resulted in the nickname “ forever chemicals.”
  • These chemicals have the propensity to travel great distances via air and sea currents, presenting a collective action problem best addressed at the EU level. In February 2023, five European nations proposed to do exactly that, filing a REACH Annex XV dossier for a universal restriction on PFAS. This proposal is currently under the consideration of ECHA’s risk assessment (RAC) and socio-economic analysis committees (SEAC). [ See AgencyIQ’s in-depth analysis of this restriction proposal here.]
  • In the meantime, a restriction proposal with similar scope has materialized in France. Member of the French Parliament and the French Ecologist party, NICOLAS THIERRY, has tabled a proposal that purports to protect the population from risks associated with PFAS. Though relatively brief, the proposed law represents one of the more serious domestic propositions for a PFAS restriction in the EU, even while the bloc wrestles with a Union-wide restriction of its own. [ Please see AgencyIQ’s in-depth analysis of this initial restriction proposal here.]

Last week, the draft bill went to the French National Assembly

  • On April 4, 2024, Thierry’s PFAS bill saw spirited debate in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament. The bill was put to a vote resulting in successful adoption, albeit with notable changes.
  • While the French Green Party sought to maintain much of the PFAS restriction bill as written, the government – represented largely by industry minister ROLAND LESCURE – was joined by The Republicans and National Rally in making a number of changes to the bill’s provisions. Lescure voiced concerns that, in acting before other member states and even the EU itself, this bill could harm the competitiveness of French industry.
  • Thierry countered this concern by pointing out the nation’s prudence in banning Bisphenol A (BPA) three years before any other European nation. He called Lescure’s arguments “extremely fragile” given that France has previously been the first to restrict substances that were later banned by other countries or even the EU.

A closer look at the amendments adopted

  • Despite the Green Party’s arguments to keep the bill intact, a handful of significant amendments were ultimately adopted by the National Assembly. The most significant amendment is the exemption of kitchen utensils from the scope of the ban. The amendment, which was primarily pursued by right-wing lawmaker PIERRE MEURIN, deletes Article 1 paragraph 5 that would have encompassed frying pans and saucepans containing PFAS, among other common kitchen tools.
  • The restriction timeline has been pushed back. The adopted bill prohibits cosmetics, clothing textiles (excluding protective clothing for security and civil protection workers) and ski waxes from containing PFAS by January 1, 2026. All remaining textiles are to be PFAS-free by January 1, 2030. This stands in contrast to the dates proposed in the original draft bill, which envisioned a first phase, in July 2025, banning PFAS in foodstuffs, cosmetics, waxes, and textiles, followed by a second phase in July 2027 encompassing all other products containing PFAS.
  • A new taxation scheme to offset the bill’s cost to the government has been cut in half. The proposed bill initially suggested a 1% tax on the profits generated by large industries releasing PFAS emissions, in tandem with an additional tax on the sale of tobacco. While the tobacco tax remains intact, the tax on industrial profit has been deleted.
  • On the other hand, the initial proposal’s implementation of the “ polluter pays principle” has been slightly strengthened. This concept assigns financial obligations to companies whose activities result in the release of PFAS into the environment. While the original draft bill proposed a threshold for qualifying for financial dues at one kilogram of PFAS emissions, this has been reduced to 100 grams. The payment schedule is set at 100 euros for every 100 grams of PFAS emitted.

A case study in lobbying

  • Groupe SEB, the world’s largest manufacturer of cookware, led the charge on eliminating the bill’s proposed ban on kitchen utensils containing PFAS. In an interview with La Tribune ahead of the National Assembly vote, SEB’s CEO, THIERRY DE LA TOUR D’ARTAISE, claimed that the ban could put 3,000 jobs at risk. He explicitly denounced the proposed bill as misguided, claiming that SEB products contain PFAS that are not considered harmful to health or the environment by health authorities.
  • SEB should be cautious with this estimation of potential lost jobs, as inflated estimates have recently triggered legal action in France. Pesticide industry group Phyteis was condemned by the French Senate in May 2023 after inflating its estimate of jobs threatened by EU pesticides legislation. This was the first use of such a sanction since the ability was initially conceived by the Sapin 2 law. Although the job loss figure given by d’Artaise in his recent interview was not intended as a formal estimate, if SEB is asked to make an official estimation of what a PFAS ban could mean for its labor force, it should consider this recent legal precedent.
  • SEB’s factory workers also voiced disapproval of the PFAS bill. The day before its consideration, employees carried frying pans as well as protest signs as they demonstrated outside of the French National Assembly. Politico Pro EU reported that these workers were bussed on Groupe SEB’s dime, revealing another component of the corporation’s lobbying efforts.
  • The amendment exempting kitchen utensils was specifically requested by Rivington, a public affairs consulting firm hired by SEB. In an email seen by Politico Pro EU, Rivington advocated on its client’s behalf to request the deletion of paragraph 5 of article 1 and the effective exemption of kitchen utensils containing PFAS from the envisioned ban.

Next steps

  • The bill now faces a vote in the French Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, before it can become law. There are no concrete details yet as to when this vote may be held.

To contact the author of this analysis, please email Rayan Bhargava ( [email protected]).
To contact the editor of this analysis, please email Chelsey McIntyre ( [email protected]).

Key Documents and Dates

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