Source to Seas - Zero Pollution 2030 organised its first living lab

SOS-ZEROPOL2030 has wrapped up its first living lab on 'PFAS use in medical applications: exploring transition scenarios’. This stakeholder event brought together expert stakeholders representing hospitals, industries, water authorities, research institutes, government bodies, and NGOs to collectively explore how we can work together to mitigate the use and emissions of PFAS throughout the entire product chain of medical devices: from production to end of life

| May 23rd, 2024 | News

Discussions focused on two distinct groups of PFAS used in the production process and in medical products: Fluoropolymers used in products including medical textiles, implants, tubes, catheters, diagnostic laboratory tests, and F-gases used in products such as anaesthetics and inhalers.

The event created a dynamic space for the participants to come together, following the principles of the European Network of Living Labs.


The focus of the Living Lab was on a shared understanding of the PFAS-challenge through the exchange of knowledge and perspectives of all stakeholders. The industry felt limited by European regulations. NGOs wanted a total ban on the production and use of PFAS as quickly as possible, the water sector wanted to improve water quality. All sectors exchanged knowledge about their current challenges and were part of a mutual learning process. Following this, the perspectives and priorities regarding reducing PFAS were discussed in an inclusive manner with the central question: if we must reduce PFAS, what is the best way forward and what are our needs and preconditions? The discussions shed light on the fragmented knowledge of all stakeholder groups and the feeling that no one has influence outside their own sector. Stakeholders have made it clear that incentives are needed to change the system and that there is currently no sense of urgency across sectors. Stakeholders underscored the importance of transparency about the affordability and availability of alternatives.

A recurring theme was the balance between waiting for a solid knowledge base, and the need to act based on the precautionary principle.  According to the hospital procurement “ We have to think big and act now. We need a medical-ethical discussion, now that we know that there is PFAS in our surgical gowns, we can no longer ignore it and we must look for alternatives at all costs”

The conclusions and lessons learnt in this session will be relevant beyond the medical sector and will contribute to the recommendations the project will make to guide the EU towards zero pollution in European seas. We are really grateful to all the participants for their valuable participation and inputs!

The event was hosted and organised by our project partner Wageningen University & Research and took place in the North-East Atlantic region in Utrecht in the Netherlands. This is the first of three regional living labs that will be organised in 2024, upcoming sessions will take place in the Black Sea region (May 2024, Bulgaria) and the Mediterranean region (November 2024, Greece).

What are PFAS? PFAS, short for Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a large group of manufactured chemicals that have the ability to resist heat and repel grease, water and oil. This makes them desirable to use in a wide range of products, including in the medical sector. The use of PFAS is however problematic as the chemicals are emitted to the environment where they do not easily break down, can accumulate over time, and are a considerable cause for concern due to their potential negative impacts on human health and the environment. Learn more about the issue in our StoryMap.

The overall aim of the Source to Seas – Zero Pollution 2030 (SOS-ZEROPOL2030) project is to develop a holistic zero pollution framework that will guide the EU towards achieving zero pollution in European seas.

Learn more about the project under Home and About and find all project resources, including our reports, infographics and StoryMaps under Resources.

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