The Forever Pollution Project's map was created following a cross-border collaboration by outlets including Le Monde (France), DR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) and the Guardian and Watershed Investigations in the UK and reveals contamination spreading all over Europe.
According to the Forever Pollution Project, the journalists gathered 100 datasets and filed dozens of freedom of information requests to build the first-of-its-kind map of PFAS contamination across the continent.
PFAS contamination in Europe: Sites where PFAS has been identified at 10ng/l or over
Source: Forever Pollution Project
PFAS, short for per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances – a family of around 10,000 chemicals – are used in a huge range of consumer products from cookware and cosmetics to furniture and food packaging, to a wide array of industrial processes.
PFAS are valued for their non-stick properties, but they do not break down in the environment, which means the pollution burden is forever increasing. They are bioaccumulative, meaning that they build up in organisms who have the misfortune to ingest them, and they biomagnify up the food chain so those at the top receive the highest concentrations via their prey.
The map shows more than 17,000 sites across Europe where PFAS contamination has been detected, including more than 1,500 in the UK. According to the Forever Pollution Project, each of these sites has been sampled for PFAS in water, soil or living organisms by scientific teams and environmental agencies between 2003 and 2023. These measures have found PFAS at levels equal to or greater than 10 nanograms per liter (ng/L).
The Forever Pollution Project was initially developed by Le Monde (France), NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), RADAR Magazine and Le Scienze (Italy), The Investigative Desk and NRC (Netherlands) with the financial support of Journalismfund.eu and Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU); further investigated and published by Knack (Belgium), Denik Referendum (Czech Republic), Politiken (Denmark), YLE (Finland), Reporters United (Greece), Latvian Radio (Latvia), Datadista (Spain), SRF (Switzerland), Watershed Investigations/The Guardian (UK); and supported by Arena for Journalism in Europe for cross-border collaboration.