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European Commission publishes Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability

19/10/2020

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Belgium

On Wednesday, 14 October, the European Commission adopted and published the much-anticipated EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability Towards a Toxic-Free Environment.
 
An integral component of not only the European Green Deal, but also the EU's Industrial Strategy, Circular Economy Action Plan and Zero Pollution Action Plan, the Chemicals Strategy aims to support the production of safe and sustainable chemicals, whilst increasing human and environmental protection. Accordingly, it acknowledges the fundamental role of chemicals in all areas of life, as well as the need to reduce their hazards, and attempts to reconcile the needs of citizens and the environment with those of industry, in the context of the Green Deal's 'zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment'.
 
The Strategy contains a comprehensive set of policy actions. Key elements include:
 
Eliminating the most harmful chemicals from consumer products
This targets all "non-essential societal uses", and will notably include the prohibition of endocrine disruptors, persistent substances such as PFAS, and chemicals that are harmful to the immune and respiratory systems. The risks presented by endocrine disruptors and PFAS are specifically targeted by dedicated sets of actions.
 
Reducing to a minimum the presence of chemical substances of concern in all products
Priority is given to products that impact the citizens most vulnerable to chemical exposure, including children, pregnant women and the elderly, and also those products most likely to enter the circular economy.
 
Focusing on mixtures of chemicals and the associated risks
Recognising that combinations of chemicals generally present a greater exposure risk than each chemical individually, these risks will be further evaluated, and risk assessment and management procedures will be proposed. The complexity of this task is also acknowledged, taking into account the number of possible chemical mixtures.
 
Providing producers and consumers with access to information about chemicals and how to use them safely
REACH information requirements will be expanded and amended, the Sustainable Product Policy Initiative will also introduce information requirements, and substances of concern will be tracked through the life cycle of the materials and products in which they are used.
 
Supporting EU industry to transition towards the production of 'safe-and-sustainable-by-design' substances, materials and products
'Safe-and-sustainable-by-design' means avoidance from the design phase onwards of harmful chemical properties and volumes in the life cycle of substances, materials and processes. Support for industry and innovation will include financing, investment, R&D and marketing support, and guidelines, to be achieved through both regulatory and non-regulatory measures.
 
Simplification and stricter enforcement of the EU legal framework regulating chemicals
The 'one substance, one assessment approach' aims to coordinate and streamline the assessment of chemicals across legislation, sectors and authorities, in order to simplify the process and ensure consistency. ''Targeted revisions" of the REACH and CLP Regulations, in particular, aim to reinforce the legal framework, in order to ensure adequate information about chemicals, and rapid identification and phase-out of substances of concern. National enforcement systems will be audited by the Commission, and appropriate measures for improvement will be proposed, to accompany those already included in the Strategy.
 
The Strategy and accompanying Commission materials can be consulted at the following links:
  By: Claudio Mereu, Koen Van Maldegem, and  Peter Sellar

Please do not hesitate to contact Claudio Mereu, Koen Van Maldegem, or Peter Sellar if you have any questions or require support.
 

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