What we do
CHEM Trust is a collaboration between CHEM Trust, a UK-registered charity, and CHEM Trust Europe, a charity based in Germany. Read more about the CHEM Trust team.
Both charities work together closely to achieve our primary aim – to prevent hazardous chemicals from causing long-term damage to wildlife or humans.
We work with policy makers, scientists, and other charities and civil society groups to campaign for restrictions on hazardous chemicals, and ensure that they are replaced with safer alternatives. We specifically focus on chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system.
Our other key areas of work include chemicals in food contact materials (such as takeaway food packaging or coffee cups), and chemicals in the marine environment.
Read about how CHEM Trust’s work has contributed to more protective EU chemicals policy.
A world-first system for calling out harmful chemicals
CHEM Trust, alongside scientists, NGOs and Member States was part of a big push to ensure the European Union agreed a set of criteria for identifying and controlling hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in pesticides and biocides.
This is the first scheme of its kind in the world. It’s a milestone in the fight to protect ourselves and the wider environment from chemicals that damage the hormone system.
Several years ago the EU Commission began to develop criteria to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), as a basis for judging whether a pesticide or biocide (substances which control unwanted organisms such as disinfectants) should be restricted.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) interfere with the body’s hormone system. They can cause serious harm to humans and wildlife, including lifelong neurological and reproductive problems.
CHEM Trust has been working on this issue since its founding in 2007 and became actively involved in EU expert groups, bringing our expertise, insights and concerns about these chemicals to bear on the formation of the EDC criteria.
The European Union officially adopted the criteria in November 2017 and they came into force in 2018. CHEM Trust and our partners, in a coalition of non-governmental organisations called EDC-Free Europe, had a significant hand in bringing this about.
The criteria that the EU is using have weaknesses, but they are setting a global example and they do establish a key framework for calling out and regulating these harmful chemicals. This makes them a vital building block in the long-term effort to protect the health of humans and wildlife.
Ourselves and our coalition partners are still pushing for better regulation of all EDCs in products in the EU. Long-term, we want to see all EDCs removed from new products and processes so that they no longer affect the health of humans and wildlife.
Regulating whole groups of harmful chemicals
Another area where CHEM Trust’s work is making important gains is on the regulation of bisphenol A (BPA).
BPA is a chemical used in polycarbonate plastics, and resins which can be found in food can linings. It is widely found in the general population, including in children. Yet it is an officially recognised as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, (EDC) which can contribute to serious health problems in humans.
Thanks in part to our work, the past 10 years has seen the European Union begin to take action on BPA. It has restricted the use of BPA in till receipts, and has banned the use of BPA from babies’ bottles and feeding cups. This is encouraging because early-years exposure to BPA during can be particularly harmful.
Such action from the EU is great news. The problem, however, is that industry has a tendency simply to replace BPA with very similar chemicals which may also be harmful – for example, bisphenol S (BPS). Our analysis is that whole groups of chemicals sharing similar structures should be regulated together to avoid this so-called “regrettable” substitution. CHEM Trust has been calling for the need for such grouping in regulation, using our report “From BPA to BPZ: A toxic soup?” as evidence.
Since we produced the report in 2018 the thinking of public authorities has indeed started to change. We are pleased that the European Chemical Agency has increased resources to work on grouping. It has also said that from early 2020 it will assess chemically similar substances together “systematically” – and we understand this to mean it’s open to the need to regulate whole groups of chemicals.
With the continued support of our partners CHEM Trust will follow this development closely. In particular we will advocate for the fast-tracking of regulation for chemical groups rather than individual substances so as to give better protection to the health of humans and wildlife.
A revision of EU legislation on chemicals in food contact materials
The current EU laws that regulate chemicals in food contact materials (FCM) do not sufficiently protect human health from hazardous chemicals in food packaging and other FCM, such as tableware, cookware and factory equipment. Only a handful of materials, such as plastics and ceramics, are regulated with specific safety limits for individual chemicals. This has led to a system of varying national rules across the EU, and varying levels of protection from harmful substances based on where you live.
CHEM Trust first began drawing attention to the issue of hazardous chemicals in FCM in 2014. Since then, we have continued to highlight our concerns, including to the European Commission and European Parliament.
In May 2020, thanks to the work of CHEM Trust, other NGOs, Member States and the European Parliament, the European Commission committed to a revision of the laws on chemicals in FCM in its Farm to Fork Strategy. This was a significant and long-awaited milestone.
Later, in October 2020, the European Commission published their Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The Strategy sets out a range of actions, including a commitment to ban the most hazardous chemicals (such as hormone disrupting chemicals including those linked to reproductive issues, carcinogens, and chemicals that cause harm in the environment) in all consumer products, including FCM. It also committed to addressing the combination effects of chemicals in FCM.
The process to revise the FCM legislation started in December 2020 with an Inception Impact Assessment from the Commission, which clearly promised to fulfil the commitments of the Chemicals Strategy. It also set out two options for how the legislation could be revised. NGOs including CHEM Trust expressed their support for option 2: to develop a new regulatory framework to replace the current regulation.
In March 2021, EU Governments unanimously supported a rapid and ambitious delivery of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, including the action on hazardous chemicals in FCM.
A proposal for the new legislation is expected in 2023. It will be vital for consumer protection in the future that these commitments are fulfilled. However, experience has shown that there is a real threat that processes will be delayed for decades and that commitments will not be implemented in practice. CHEM Trust will follow this process closely and work with partner organisations to ensure we get new legislation that provides proper protection for human health and the environment from all hazardous chemicals in all types of FCM.