New Chemicals Strategy paves the way for toxic-free environment

The most harmful substances will be phased out from toys, childcare articles, cosmetics, detergents, food contact materials and textiles

Photo: EU Virginijus Sinkevicius.

The Commission adopted the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability as the first step towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment declared in the Green Deal. The goals are boosting innovation for safe and sustainable chemicals, and increasing protection of human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals.

While recognises the fundamental role of chemicals for human well-being and for the green and digital transition of European economy and society, the strategy acknowledges as well the urgent need to address the health and environmental challenges caused by the most harmful substances.

What concrete actions sets out the strategy as to make chemicals safe and sustainable by design and to ensure that chemicals can deliver all their benefits without harming the planet? One of them is phasing out from consumer products, such as toys, childcare articles, cosmetics, detergents, food contact materials and textiles, the most harmful substances, which include among others endocrine disruptors, chemicals that affect the immune and respiratory systems, and persistent substances such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances unless their use is proven essential for society.

The strategy foresees also minimising and replacing as far possible the presence of substances of concern in all products, but as well addressing the cocktail effect due to a mixture of components by taking better account of the risk that is posed to human health and the environment. It requires producers and consumers to have guaranteed access to information on chemical content and safe use.

As far as possible, new chemicals and materials must be safe and sustainable by design, meaning from production to end of life. The actions announced in the strategy will support industrial innovation so that such chemicals become the norm on the EU market and a benchmark worldwide.

Among the actions the strategy put forward is developing safe-and-sustainable-by-design criteria and ensuring financial support for the commercialisation and uptake of safe and sustainable chemicals and ensuring the development and uptake of safe and sustainable-by-design substances, materials and products, together with promoting innovation and moving away from animal testing.

This can be achieved through EU funding and investment instruments and public-private partnerships.

Stepping up enforcement of EU rules both at the borders and in the single market is also on the plan, and a push to simplify and consolidate the EU legal framework by introducing the ‘One substance one assessment' process, strengthening the principles of 'no data, no market' and introducing targeted amendments to REACH and sectorial legislation, among others.

The executive will also promote safety and sustainability standards globally, in particular by leading by example and promoting a coherent approach aiming that hazardous substances that are banned in the EU are not produced for exports.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans commented that the Chemicals Strategy is the first step towards Europe's zero pollution ambition accenting that it is  is especially important to stop using the most harmful chemicals in consumer products, from toys and childcare products to textiles and materials that come in contact with the food.

We owe our well-being and high living standards to the many useful chemicals that people have invented over the past 100 years, but we cannot close our eyes to the harm that hazardous chemicals pose to our environment and health Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius said. We have come a long way regulating chemicals in the EU, and with this strategy we want to build on our achievements and go further to prevent the most dangerous chemicals from entering into the environment and our bodies, and affecting especially the most fragile and vulnerable ones, he explained.


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