EU agencies: More work needed to make chemicals safe and sustainable

EU agencies: More work needed to make chemicals safe and sustainable

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EU agencies: More work needed to make chemicals safe and sustainableThe transition to safer and more sustainable chemicals is progressing in some areas, while in others it is only just beginning. This is the conclusion of a first joint European assessment of the causes and consequences of chemical pollution by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). This review was published today. The benchmarking showed that more work is needed to reduce the impact of harmful substances on human health and the environment.

April 17, 2024 – The number of industrial chemicals subject to EU chemicals legislation to determine their safety has increased significantly. Authorities now have a much better understanding of the hazardous properties of chemicals used in the EU. This has led to numerous measures to minimize and control the risks of different groups of substances.


EMA and ECHA joint synthesis report

According to the EMA-ECHA Joint Synthesis Report on the EU Chemicals Indicator Framework, the overall use of the most harmful chemicals is still increasing. In particular, chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction. However, the growth is slower than the overall growth of the chemical market. The pressure to avoid the use of so-called substances of concern and to implement the principles of the “safe and sustainable by design” framework is increasing.


Harmful substances in consumer products

There is a need to ensure more effectively that consumer products do not contain the most harmful substances. Think, for example, of chemicals that disrupt the hormone balance and have a negative impact on the endocrine system. Or substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. These substances pose a major health risk even years after their ‘consumption’.


Need more data

More data and information is needed to better understand human and environmental exposure to the most harmful chemicals and their impacts. But the indicators clearly show that the shift towards safe and sustainable chemicals must continue and even accelerate.


First step on a long road

‘The health of European citizens and our environment should be a priority.” This first-ever benchmarking exercise shows that while chemicals can play a positive role in our lives, further action is urgently needed to address the risks posed by the use of unsafe and unsustainable substances. The knowledge gained from this assessment will help us to switch to safe and sustainable chemicals in the future,’ said Leena Ylä-Mononen, EEA Executive Director.


Accelerating the transition

ECHA Executive Director Sharon McGuinness: ‘We need to accelerate the transition to safe and sustainable chemicals. Action by authorities and industry has helped to minimize and control the risks of hazardous chemicals. But we must continue to improve knowledge about chemicals and support the risk management of chemical groups to protect people and the environment.’


Key indicators

The report is based on a set of 25 key indicators that monitor the causes and consequences of chemical pollution in Europe. These indicators were also published today.
The indicators will be updated regularly to monitor chemical pollution and measure the effectiveness of European chemicals legislation. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of progress under the EU sustainability strategy “Chemicals for a pollution-free environment” (CSS).


Key findings
  • The transition to safer and more sustainable chemicals is progressing in some areas, while in others it has only just begun.
  • Government and industry actions have helped to minimize and control the risks of several groups of hazardous chemicals. Efforts are being made to increase knowledge of chemical hazards and to support risk management measures where needed.
  • Available data indicates that there has been little progress in eliminating substances of concern from waste and secondary materials. This is an obstacle to the transition to a more circular economy.
  • Emissions of certain chemicals to water and air have decreased due to specific EU legislation (e.g. on industrial emissions) and international measures, but further action is needed to achieve concentration levels that do not harm human health and the environment. Emissions from industry still cause significant costs in terms of damage to human health and the ecosystem.
  • Human biomonitoring provides an opportunity to understand human exposure to chemicals from various sources and thus the health risks associated with chemical pollution. Therefore, biomonitoring is an important tool to measure the effectiveness of chemicals legislation in protecting human health and the environment.


The EU Chemicals Indicator Framework

The aim of EU chemicals policy is to meet the challenge of producing and using chemicals to meet societal needs while respecting the limits of our planet and avoiding harm to people and the environment. The EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) aims to realize this vision through a series of actions. These include measures to support innovation in safe and sustainable chemicals, to strengthen the protection of human health and the environment, to simplify and strengthen the regulatory framework for chemicals and to build a comprehensive knowledge base to support evidence-based policy making.
The framework has an online dashboard and the indicators are also accessible via this dashboard.


Read more

Source: ECHA
Also read: New CLP hazard classes in IUCLID


This information has been compiled with the greatest possible care, in some cases from different information sources. (Interpretation) errors are not excluded. No legal obligation can therefore be derived from this text. Everyone dealing with this subject has the responsibility to delve into the matter!