Avoid drinking tap water in south-west France, says leaked email

People should favour bottled water so as to avoid ‘forever chemicals,’ it is claimed

Tap water could contain ‘forever chemicals’ according to a regional health director
Published Last updated

Tap water in south-west France contains ‘forever chemicals’ and should be avoided, a leaked email from a top health official claims, it is widely reported.

The statement telling senior managers to drink bottled water instead of tap water is reported to have come in an internal mail from Didier Jaffre, director of the Agence Régionale de Santé Occitanie, which manages health policy in the region.

Newspaper Le Canard Enchainé published the alleged internal memo on October 18.

‘Do not drink tap water’

“There are PFAS [per -and polyfluoroalkyls] and metabolites everywhere. And the more we look, the more we will find,” the mail sent on September 18 reads.

“Tap water should not be drunk, just used for other things, we have to favour bottled water.”

Tap water in France is tested for a wide range of chemical and biological contaminants, however, regular testing for per -and polyfluoroalkyls is only scheduled to start in 2026.

In the meantime, Mr Jaffre told his subordinates “do not do the tests” according to Le Canard Enchainé.

Read more: How safe is it to drink tap water in France?

What are per- and polyfluoroalkyls?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyls are a group of synthetic chemical compounds used for their water and grease resistant properties in pans, clothes, carpets and in a range of cleaning products.

These same properties allow them to accumulate in water pipes.

They are known as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their slow deterioration in the natural environment where they can persist in a chemically stable form for many years.

The compounds can also accumulate in the human body, and while research is still ongoing into their potential effects, they have been linked with some certainty to a variety of health problems, including:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver damage
  • Infertility
  • Thyroid disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Raised cholesterol

‘Extremely worrying’

While ARS Occitanie and Mr Jaffre have not commented on the leaked email, reaction from elsewhere has been swift.

“Confirming the presence of per and polyfluoroalkyls in tap water would be more extremely worrying,” Dr Cécile Stratonovitch, a paediatrician specialising in pollutants told France 3.

Environmental association Génération Futures has filed a police complaint for damage to the natural environment to ensure that the matter is investigated.

The Connexion has contacted Mr Jaffre for a response to the claims and is awaiting a reply.

Read also

Pesticides in French tap water ‘not a health risk’