Today, the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published a new report on ‘Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life‘ following its inquiry into the subject. The EAC declare that “current regulation does not account for the cocktail of chemicals we are exposed to”, and that hazardous chemicals are now “ubiquitous in humans and the environment”.
- the UK Government should set ambitious targets for the reduction of chemicals in the environment in its forthcoming Chemicals Strategy;
- the UK Government should set up a biomonitoring programme to determine chemical contamination of wildlife and people in the UK;
- the labelling system for chemicals in consumer products should be reformed;
- the UK Government should prioritise data sharing relationships in future negotiations with the EU, such as access to the RAPEX product safety database.
- the UK Government should introduce a new furniture flammability test that will lead to reductions in use of chemical flame retardants;
- industry should innovate and adopt safer alternatives to using chemical flame retardants in domestic furniture.
- The need to regulate groups of similar chemicals, see our ‘Toxic Soup’ report for the example of the bisphenols, used in food packaging and thermal paper till receipts;
- Better regulation of chemicals in food contact materials, where the EAC state that: “We support CHEM Trust’s call for REACH-defined substances of very high concern to be automatically banned in food contact materials as soon as possible”; for more on this issue see our Food contact page;
- Supports the need to move towards flame retardant free furniture;
- Ending the ‘postcode lottery in chemical safety testing‘, which we documented last year, through an increase in resources for local authorities and a centralised testing authority.
On the issue of what should happen post- Brexit, the EAC recommend that:
“As the UK’s chemical regulator, the Health and Safety Executive should retain alignment to ECHA’s candidate list of substances of very high concern. Deviation should only happen where the intention is to increase safety standards by moving more quickly to restrict a substance.”
CHEM Trust reiterates its view that the UK should aim to stay as close to possible to REACH, for example including it in any Free Trade Agreement negotiated with the EU. It is vital that a post-Brexit Britain continues to have an effective system to protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals, such as those that can accumulate in our bodies or disrupt our hormones.
CHEM Trust’s Executive Director, Dr Michael Warhurst, said:
“CHEM Trust is calling for rapid action from Government and industry to prevent further contamination of our bodies and the environment, and to stop the chemical industry replacing one hazardous chemical with another.
The MPs rightly highlight the disturbing reality that poorly-written UK laws are driving the use of hazardous flame retardant chemicals, leadings to our bodies and those of our children being polluted by these toxic substances.
The Government should revise its fire safety laws to bring them into line with other countries in order to protect against fires, without using hazardous chemicals.
Secondly they must ensure that all groups of hazardous chemicals are phased out and replaced by safer alternatives.
Thirdly, whatever the outcome of Brexit the UK Government must seek a future relationship with the European Chemical Agency and stay aligned with EU chemical-related laws.”