Pollution is, most of the time, as pervasive as it is invisible. Our map of Forever Pollution materialised the magnitude of PFAS contamination across the continent.

The Forever Pollution Project showed that “expert-reviewed journalism” can contribute not just to the information of the public, but also to scientific research and regulatory efforts. The project has catapulted PFAS into the news and public debate in many European countries. 

The Forever Pollution Project has generated discussion in journalism, scientific and regulatory circles, as well as cross-pollinating interactions between these three worlds.

Recognition in journalism circles

The Forever Pollution Project was awarded Second Place for the Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, large category, at the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) 22nd Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment (24 October 2023). It was also listed as the third finalist for the 2023 Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism of the European Parliament (13 October 2023).

Our British partners Leana Hosea and Rachel Salvidge from Watershed Investigations, who published their PFAS investigation series in The Guardian, were “Highly Commended” at the British Journalism Awards in the Energy & Environment Journalism category (14 December 2023).

Our German partners SZ/NDR/WDR were nominated at the German Reporter Award in the category Data Journalism (1 November 2023).

The Project was cited in the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) 2023 TOP 10 best investigative stories in French.

Discussion in journalism fora

The Forever Pollution Project has raised considerable interest in journalism circles. 

We have been invited to share our methodology and findings in major journalism conferences. They include:

  • Arena Climate Network Conference, Prague (Czechia), 28 April 2023.
  • Dataharvest, Mechelen (Belgium), 3 June 2023 – Session on the project and session on collaborating with scientists.
  • Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC), Gothenburg (Sweden), 19 September 2023.
  • Arena Climate Network Conference, Vienna (Austria), 11 November 2023.
  • iMEdD International Journalism Forum, Athens (Greece), 29 September 2023.
  • SciCar, When science meets computer-assisted reporting, Netzwerk Recherche, Dortmund (Germany), 30 September 2023

Follow ups

Our dataset, available in open source, has been used by dozens of journalists to investigate local sources of pollution and generate new knowledge. 

In November 2023, our colleagues of the Belgian public-service broadcaster RTBF used the Forever Pollution data and methodology to investigate the absence of publicly available PFAS contamination data in Wallonia and Brussels, the French speaking part of Belgium. Through freedom of information requests and environmental sampling they performed themselves, the journalists revealed 335 new unbeknownst pollution hotspots that were added to our map. 

The Arkema chemical site in Pierre-Bénite, close to Lyon (France), is one of the twenty PFAS manufacturing facilities in Europe identified and located by the Forever Pollution Project. To date, it is the #1 contamination hotspot in France.

Public interest and interest for the public

“A huge achievement”. This is how Valentina Bertato, a EU Commission official in charge of chemical policies at the Directorate General for the Environment, publicly praised the Forever Pollution Project in October 2023. The EU chemical strategy for sustainability, published in 2020, she said, would have made “an even more compelling case of action on chemicals” had our data been available at the time. 

We have received personal communications from many actors in the European regulatory ecosystem that the Project has significantly raised the profile of PFAS contamination in the EU. According to them, the Project has been a “game-changer” in raising awareness of the gravity of the situation at the highest political levels.

The “presumptive contamination” approach to identify possible sources of PFAS pollution is now widely considered a valuable tool for governments and remediation initiatives to prioritise sampling campaigns, develop action plans to protect the public, and remediate pollution.

Major regulatory circles have solicited us to present our methodology. They include: 

In Autumn 2023, the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) started a campaign calling on the UK Government to overhaul its PFAS drinking water standards based on our investigation and data. They produced their own map based on the UK data.

Bills mentioning the project were filed for discussion at the Assemblée nationale in France and at the Senate in Italy.

In France, our investigation was used to sustain several criminal prosecutions and legal proceedings.

Campaign materials from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s #CleanUpPFAS campaign.
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