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Last Tuesday I spoke at a Chemical Watch conference in Brussels as part of a day of presentations and discussion about enforcement of EU chemical laws like REACH.

As I emphasised in my presentation, REACH is supposed to provide a high level of protection for human health and the environment. This won’t happen if companies can dodge their legal responsibilities or if they can register chemicals with poor quality or incomplete information. My talk highlighted 3 issues: [read more]

The hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is currently used in around 70% of thermal paper in the EU – the paper that is used for many till receipts in shops.

The French Government has proposed that there should be an EU-wide ban on this use of Bisphenol A, due to the risks to workers and consumers. Their detailed submission is available on the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) web site here.

CHEM Trust strongly supports this proposal for a ban on BPA in this use, and we’ve submitted our own comments to ECHA backing this ban: [read more]

Why the green economy needs to pay more attention to SIN

The Green Economy is a big deal these days. Most forward-thinking companies realise that their future lies in being low carbon and resource efficient – and many also talk about the importance of nature, tropical forests for example.

Some companies are also actively trying to reduce the hazardous chemicals in their supply chains – for example the multinational electronics & textile companies being targeted by Greenpeace, or the US retailers Walmart & Target with their ‘Sustainability Summit‘.

However, despite these sectoral initiatives (often encouraged  by NGO action), the overall Green Economy/sustainability debate all too often ignores the chemicals used in products – and other pollution-related issues like air and water pollution.

Why does pollution so often fail to get a look in? Shouldn’t we be talking about ‘zero pollution’ along with ‘zero carbon’ ‘zero waste’ and ‘zero deforestation’? [read more]

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that can disrupt the functioning of the endocrine (or hormonal) systems of humans or wildlife. There are EU laws in place that can restrict their use – but they will only work if there is agreement on how to decide if a chemical is an EDC.

The issue of criteria to identify EDCs is therefore vital, as it affects which chemicals will be regulated – for example the pesticides and biocides regulatory system can ban the use of EDCs. The system for regulating industrial chemicals (REACH) can subject EDCs to authorisation, where companies must apply to continue to use them, otherwise they are off the market.

The EU Commission has just released a consultation on what the criteria should be. Here’s the CHEM Trust response: [read more]

A new report  “Chemical conflicts”, from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) – who specialise in exposing corporate lobbying – finds that two-thirds of scientists advising the EU on controversial substances have industry links.

CEO looked at four recent case studies of chemicals that had been examined by the European Commission’s Scientific Committees: parabens, nano titanium dioxide, nano-silver and mercury.

The Scientific Committees involved included the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). [read more]

Chemical Watch has reported that the chemical-industry backed ECETOC organisation is pushing to change the way hazardous chemicals are classified & labelled.

The group aims to change the safety labels on chemical that are carcinogenic (cancer causing) or toxic to reproduction. These labels inform users of the chemicals about their hazards, so that risk management measures can be taken. ECETOC wants to move to a situation where the potency is considered when deciding what to put on the label.

CHEM Trust senior policy advisor Ninja Reineke explains why this is the wrong approach: [read more]

Chemical Watch is reporting that the European Commission is re-organising responsibility for  the setting of criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), moving it from the Environment Directorate General (DG) to DG Health and Consumer Affairs (or ‘Sanco’), though DG Environment will remain in charge of overall EDC policy. In addition, responsibility for biocides and pesticides policies is transferring to DG Sanco:

The European Commission’s directorate general for health (DG Sanco) will lead development of criteria to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), according to Bjørn Hansen, head of the chemicals unit at DG Environment, which has been in charge of the work until now. The switch is part of the changes planned for the new Commission, which is scheduled to start its mandate on 1 November (CW 10 September 2014).

The EDC criteria feature in the EU’s biocidal products (BPR) and pesticides Regulations (PPPR), and with DG Sanco in charge of the two policy areas starting next year, it will have “a higher stake” in proposing the new criteria, says Mr Hansen. His unit has been working with DG Sanco over the past few months on the issue (CW 16 June 2014), and he expects the two DGs will launch a public consultation on the criteria, before the end of the year.

DG Environment will still be in charge of the European Commission’s overall strategy on EDCs, as well as overseeing rules for test methods needed to detect chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties, according to Mr Hansen.

At CHEM Trust we are concerned about these changes, and our Policy Director Gwynne Lyons is quoted in the article: [read more]

Back in July, worrying new research on hazardous chemicals in food packaging led to CHEM Trust writing a letter to the current EU Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg – more details in this blog post.

We are particularly concerned about gaps in regulation for chemicals in non-plastic food contact materials (cardboard, ink, glue etc), and the fact that the new research found that many chemicals with hazardous properties – such as endocrine disrupting chemicals – were in use in food contact packaging.

The Head of the Commissioner Borg’s Cabinet of advisors, Joanna Darmanin, responded to our letter towards the end of August – you can read her response here.

The letter admits that the legislation in this area does not fully cover all types of food contact materials: [read more]

Chemical Watch has reported that officials from Europe and the US are planning to have a formal meeting on 15th October 2014 to discuss increased co-operation on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

This comes as there are increased concerns among many that the EU-US “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP), currently being negotiated, may undermine the regulation of EDCs in Europe. CHEM Trust has already joined with a large number of other groups to call for chemicals to be excluded from TTIP.

This meeting – which isn’t ‘for the time being’ part of the TTIP trade negotiations – has been welcomed by the chemical industry, according to Chemical Watch.

CHEM Trust is rather less convinced: [read more]

CHEM Trust, with over 20 other European civil society organisations, have today sent a letter to the President-Elect of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. In the letter we propose that the next Commission adopts a revised model of scientific advice, rather than the current single ‘Chief Scientific Officer’ approach.

The link between science and policy – and how uncertainty is understood and acted on – are key issues for any government or similar organisation. Many aspects of science are well understood, but in many areas of great controversy the science is subject to great uncertainty and dispute.

Science moves forward through such debate, with ideas that are now well established – like plate tectonics or the idea that most stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria – widely dismissed when they were first proposed. The debate continues in many other areas, such as on the risk of hormone disrupting chemicals, nanotechnology or the role of statins in preventative medicine.

One of the best examples of government failure when dealing with scientific uncertainty was in the UK, after a new disease had appeared in cattle – Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). One major question was whether this disease could spread to humans. For some years it was claimed that this was impossible, until the government in 1996 had to admit that in fact a new human disease, vCJD, was caused by exposure to BSE. They also had to admit that the public had not been properly protected from exposure to BSE; this disease has killed more than 100 people. [read more]