The largest ever ban of toxic chemicals announced by European Commission

Thousands of the most notorious chemicals will be rapidly banned in Europe, the European Commission announced last week, as part of the Zero-pollution goal in the EU Green Deal. Michael Warhurst discusses the new roadmap in an article on the Chemtrust website.


New EU roadmap proposes action to ban some of the most hazardous chemicals from consumer products

Recently the  European Commission published the “Restrictions Roadmap”, a new plan to restrict the use of a number of groups of chemicals, including bisphenols, phthalates and flame retardants. The chemicals concerned all have severe hazards, including endocrine disruption, cancer-causing properties and persistence in the environment. They are routinely used in a wide range of household items, from bisphenols in food contact materials and some plastics to brominated flame retardants in sofas and electronic goods, and this roadmap could lead to bans on their use in all or most products.

The Roadmap is the Commission’s first substantive output as part of its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability published in October 2020, and comes after nearly a year of draft documents. The roadmap aims to accelerate action on the most hazardous chemicals during the next few years, ahead of the revision of the EU’s main chemicals law REACH which should strengthen controls on the most harmful chemicals.

CHEM Trust has been calling for restrictions on groups of chemicals for many years, and highlighted the problem of industry just moving from one hazardous substance to another in our “Toxic Soup” report on the bisphenols four years ago. It is therefore very welcome that this roadmap commits the EU to the greater use of group restrictions.

The final roadmap is an improvement on the initial draft, published in summer 2021. Our response to this draft argued that action was needed on Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs):

“Some brominated flame retardants are now designated as UNEP POPS, others are subject to Restrictions. However, many remain in extensive use, with DBDPE an example of one that REACH has so far been unable to deal with, despite widespread pollution and contamination and a substance evaluation process that started more than nine years ago.

CHEM Trust’s “No Brainer” report in 2017 highlighted some of our concerns about the neurodevelopmental impacts of these chemicals, while contamination of wildlife and our homes is widespread.”

We therefore welcome the fact that the finalised roadmap includes action on flame retardants in general:

“[EU Chemical Agency] ECHA will prepare an overall strategy on flame retardants by 2022, which will support [the Commission] when it decides to request (a) restriction dossier(s). The substances in scope are in principle all flame retardants, and there will be particular focus on brominated flame retardants and their prioritisation for restrictions.”

It’s worth noting that this roadmap is just the start of a process to ban these chemicals, as the Commission, Member States and the EU Chemicals Agency must now work together to rapidly draft and finalise the legal bans on these substances.

Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust, said:

“CHEM Trust welcomes this important step forward in addressing the large backlog of hazardous chemicals that need to have their use restricted in order to protect human health and the environment. However, it is essential that the Commission, EU Member States and the EU Chemical Agency ECHA move rapidly to develop and implement wide-ranging bans on these chemicals. “

Stefan Scheuer, Chief EU Policy Advocate at CHEM Trust, added:

“This is the first important output under the new EU’s chemicals strategy and a first step to accelerate the regulation of chemicals towards achieving toxic-free products. We believe that by 2030, all of the most harmful chemicals should be banned from everyday products, such as textiles, furniture and food packaging.”

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