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The European Commission has adopted a new Chemicals Strategy for sustainability and a toxin-free environment. The contents of the strategy are briefly described below. According to the Substitution Centre, it is an ambitious plan but difficult to implement in practice.
On 14 October 2020, the European Commission submitted a new Chemicals Strategy for sustainability and a toxin-free environment to the European Parliament, European Council and the EU committees. The strategy aims to increase protection of human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals.
The EU commission proposes, among other actions, prohibiting the use of the most harmful chemicals in consumer products, simplifying and consolidating EU legal frameworks with group bans, as well as better controls to ensure that legislation is adhered to. Another goal is to address combination effects (human exposure to a mix of chemicals) in risk assessments.
Imports of hazardous chemicals will be limited by increased control at EU borders, which will also contribute to a fairer playing field for producers in the EU. The chemical industry’s global competitiveness shall be strengthened by the development of safe and sustainable chemicals and increased production of essential chemicals and raw materials.
Future investments and increased innovation capacity shall promote safe and sustainable design throughout the life cycle of products. Chemicals banned within the EU shall not be exported to non-EU countries, and the EU shall maintain its position as a global leader with a high standard.
Hazardous substances shall only be permitted where their use is deemed essential for society. Endocrine disruptors and persistent substances are addressed in particular. An example of this is PFAS, a substance group used in many different products and processes. Product categories that will be prioritised are those that affect the most vulnerable groups and have the greatest potential for a circular economy.
Substitution Centre advisors have read the EU Chemicals Strategy and consider it a major step in the right direction.
“The Chemicals Strategy is very ambitious, coherent and favourable in many ways, but it will not be easy to put the work into practice,” says Tonie Wickman, Substitution Centre Advisor.
“Legislated chemicals will need to be replaced and the new options being introduced will have to be carefully considered. Preventing unhealthy substitution will require extensive support for businesses and other stakeholders.”