On October 14, 2020, the European Commission (EC) announced the publication of its new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS). It is being described as “the first step towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment,” which was targeted within the European Green Deal (FPF reported). The strategy is set to “boost innovation for safe and sustainable chemicals, and increase protection of human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals” including through “prohibiting the use of the most harmful chemicals in consumer products such as toys, childcare articles, cosmetics, detergents, food contact materials and textiles, unless proven essential for society, and ensuring that all chemicals are used more safely and sustainably.”

Specifically related to food contact materials (FCMs), the action plan for the strategy includes plans for the EU’s FCM regulations to:

  • Extend the generic approach to risk management “to ensure that consumer products do not contain chemicals that cause cancers, gene mutations, affect the reproductive or the endocrine system, or are persistent and bioaccumulative and toxic” as well as to “assess the modalities and timing to extend the same approach to further chemicals including those affecting the immune, neurological or respiratory systems and chemicals toxic to a specific organ”
  • “Update information requirements to allow the identification of endocrine disruptors”
  • “Introduce or reinforce provisions to take account of the combination effects of chemicals”

Regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the EC plans to “ban all PFAS as a group in fire-fighting foams as well as in other uses, allowing their use only where they are essential for society.” It further commits to transitioning towards a group-based approach for regulating all chemicals with the aim of achieving a simpler ‘one substance-one assessment’ approach.

The publication of the strategy is generally being seen by public health advocacy groups as a significant step forward for chemicals management in the EU. However, there are also concerns being raised about included wording related to the use of “rigorous impact assessments” and extended stakeholder dialogues that may cause significant delays in implementing the strategy’s aims.

The roadmap for the strategy was published in May 2020 (FPF reported). The concepts of the strategy had then been under increasing pressure from stakeholders over the past few weeks (FPF reported) following a leaked draft version of the strategy showing internal disagreements in July 2020 (FPF reported).

References

EC (October 14, 2020). “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-Free Environment.” (pdf)

EC (October 14, 2020). “Annex to the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-Free Environment.” (pdf)

European Commission Announcements

EC (October 14, 2020). “Green Deal: Commission adopts new Chemicals Strategy towards a toxic-free environment.”

EC (October 14, 2020). “Green Deal: Chemicals Strategy towards a toxic-free environment – Questions and Answers.”

EC (October 14, 2020). “Chemicals strategy: The EU’s chemicals strategy for sustainability towards a toxic-free environment.”

External Reporting and Stakeholder Reactions

Environmental Health News (October 14, 2020). “Roadmap points Europe toward safer, sustainable chemicals.”

Health and Environment Alliance (October 14, 2020). “EU chemicals strategy: speedy implementation steps key to truly protect people’s health.”

Jack Hunter (October 14, 2020). “Chemical detox plan for Europe announced.” European Environmental Bureau

European Chemicals Agency (October 14, 2020). “ECHA ready to help the EU achieve its ambitions for safe and sustainable chemicals.”

Cefic (October 14, 2020). “Cefic welcomes new enforcement and innovation proposals in new Chemical Strategy for Sustainability but warns ‘missed opportunity’ and uncoordinated approach risk undermining EU ‘Green Deal’ and climate goals.”

Endocrine Society (October 14, 2020). “Endocrine Society welcomes European Commission’s chemical strategy.”

Luke Buxton (October 15, 2020). “European Commission publishes radical, wide-ranging chemicals strategy.” Chemical Watch

Kathryn Carlson (October 15, 2020). “NGOs celebrate, industry disappointed at newly unveiled EU chemicals strategy.” Chemical Watch

Clelia Oziel (October 15, 2020). “Sinkevičius exclusive interview: ‘No time to lose’ to implement EU chemicals strategy.” Chemical Watch

Clelia Oziel (October 15, 2020). “REACH will ‘most likely’ need reopening to implement new chemicals strategy, says Commission official.” Chemical Watch

Vanessa Zainzinger (October 16, 2020). “EU commits to overhaul of chemicals legislation.” Chemistry World

Chemical Watch (October 16, 2020). “Big Interview: Virginijus Sinkevičius – why the chemicals strategy is vital to achieving Europe’s green targets.”

Kathryn Carlson (October 19, 2020). “Envi grills EU commissioner on ‘essential use’ in new chemicals strategy.” Chemical Watch

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