European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability
October 16th, 2020
After much anticipation, the new long-term vision for the EU’s chemical policy – the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability has been published by the European Commission. As part of the European Green Deal, this strategy aims to contribute to making the EU a more sustainable, climate neutral and circular economy by 2050. One of the core aspirations of the strategy is to provide better protection of human health and the environment by addressing pollution from all sources and catalyse the move towards a toxic-free environment.
The Commission envisions that this strategy will stimulate the production of chemicals in such a way that “maximises their contribution to society including achieving the green and digital transition, while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations”. Through defining a roadmap and timeline for transformation of the European chemicals industry, the strategy aims to promote innovation and attract investment, with a focus on safety and sustainability.
In the strategy the Commission commits to implementing a variety of measures across EU Chemical legislation, such as:
- Strengthening the EU principles of ‘no data, no market’ and the ‘polluter pays’. By having a zero-tolerance policy for non-compliance, ECHA will have greater authority to revoke registration numbers of non-compliant entities.
- Proposing new hazard classes and criteria in the CLP regulations to address environmental toxicology, persistence, mobility, and bioaccumulation. By strengthening requirements across legislation, more information will be available to member state competent authorities allowing them to perform comprehensive environmental risk assessments on individual substances.
- Extending the generic risk management approach to consumer products to ensure they do not contain chemicals that cause cancers, gene mutations, adverse reproductive effects (CMR), or that are persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment. Ultimately, this risk assessment approach will be extended to chemicals also affecting the immune, neurological and/or respiratory system, and those with organ specific toxicity. Further, the generic risk management approach will be extended to professional users to mirror consumer users, who are already banned from using CMR (1a and 1b).
- Establishing legally binding hazard identification of endocrine disruptors (ED), ensuring they are banned in consumer products. Further protection will be achieved by introducing EDs under REACH as a category of substances of very high concern (SVHCs).
- Assesses how to introduce mixture assessment factors into REACH chemical safety assessments of substances. By introducing new or reinforcing existing provisions, the Commission hopes to capture the combination effects in other relevant legislation such as food, water, cosmetics etc.
- Banning specific uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and only permitting uses if essential for society. Further focus is placed upon the remediation of PFAS in environments both within Europe and more globally, with emphasis on funding innovations to substitute PFAS under Horizon Europe.
- Initiatives to simplify actions across European chemical legislation with a focus on public transparency, input from expert groups, and coordination mechanisms. Incorporation of the lessons learned during the practical implementation of the REACH authorisation and restriction process will be spotlighted.
The publication of this important strategy document from the EC establishes the future direction of regulatory development in the EU which provides helpful context to all stakeholders.
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