The European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) sets out the actions needed for chemicals management in delivering the European Green Deal, a toxic-free environment and zero-pollution. All of which are priorities for the EU Commission with the aim of enhancing environmental and health protection, while setting a path towards a more sustainable chemical industry.
Central to this delivery will be the acceleration of controls on harmful chemicals; in particular a general ban of the most hazardous chemicals from everyday consumer products, such as toys, furniture and food contact materials. The revision of REACH and the laws on Classification and Labelling (CLP) scheduled in the next few months foresee action on these elements, as well as on promoting the development and use of chemicals that are safe and sustainable by design.
Unfortunately the EU chemical industry is now ramping up opposition and doom-mongering about claimed negative impacts.
Today Cefic (European Chemical Industry Council) published an alarmist study claiming that the CSS would have a huge economic impact on the chemical sector. The findings are based on worst case assumptions and on the views of interviewed companies on how substance restrictions might impact their business. Companies assume that the move towards safer chemical alternatives will happen very slowly, yet a recent ECHA study shows that most substances of very high concern (SVHCs) subject to authorisation have been substituted rather rapidly.
The Cefic study did not assess the positive impacts for businesses from an increasing market for safe substances. Nor did it take into account the benefits to human health and the environment of more sustainable chemicals.
Stefan Scheuer, Chief EU policy advocate at CHEM Trust, said:
The chemical industry is crying wolf yet again. During the first EU chemicals policy reform 20 years ago, industry groups published studies that showed exaggerated impacts of the new regulation. These industry studies were heavily criticised at that time due to methodological flaws. However the industry lobby continued to use them widely, causing delay and less protective regulations for people and wildlife.
Civil society has called out how industry organisations systematically inflate cost estimates to combat new regulations and have also highlighted how the disastrous forecasts pushed years ago did not crystallise in reality. In fact, the EU’s chemical industry doubled its trade surplus between 2010 and 2020, as REACH was being implemented.
Michael Warhurst, Executive Director at CHEM Trust said
The CSS, including a revision of REACH, is embedded in the new vision of the EU Green Deal, including a zero-pollution, toxic-free environment; this recognises the major risks raised by the interlinked planetary crises. The Green Deal brings an answer to this: systemic change as means to secure a fair future for future generations.
The chemical industry needs to accept this new mindset, and innovate to replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. There is no time for delay as hazardous chemicals continue to be found throughout the world, from the remotest regions to the blood and tissues of humans and wildlife, impacting on health.
CHEM Trust believes that the first step to address this is to ban the most hazardous chemicals from consumer products by 2030. We call on all stakeholders, including the chemical industry, to commit to this target.