Sweden Says Chemicals Tainting Its Water a ‘Scandal’ for EU

Jun 12, 2014 7:48 am ET

June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Sweden called on the European Union to act against a harmful form of chemicals that contaminated its drinking water, saying the issue is bound to affect other member states.

Highly fluorinated chemicals, which are regularly used in fire extinguishers at airports, by fire departments and the military, have polluted Swedish drinking water to the point where some supplies are now off limits, the country’s Environment Minister Lena Ek said today in Luxembourg. She wants the EU to develop an action plan to tackle the chemicals, whose impact may not be limited to Sweden, she said.

“We have a growing chemical scandal in Europe,” Ek told reporters before a meeting of ministers from the bloc’s 28 member states. “We have found in Sweden that substances used for fire extinguishers -- substances that are already forbidden -- have leaked into the ground water.”

Sweden, which was named the world’s most sustainable country by Swiss investment group RobecoSAM AG last year, has about 100,000 lakes and is known for its quality tap water. Clean water topped women’s rights and education when Europe’s second-biggest clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB invited people to vote on what issues need the most support going forward.

“The Swedish government is concerned about the widespread use of these very problematic highly fluorinated chemicals, which are used in a large number of consumer products,” Ek said. “They disrupt human reproduction. They stay in the nature. They’re almost non-degradable, and that means there’s a problem we have to solve together.”

--With assistance from Niklas Magnusson in Stockholm.