Members of the EDC-Free Europe coalition have welcomed the release of the European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability as a significant step forward in the delivery of Europe’s promises to minimise people’s exposure to harmful chemical substances, including endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). However, they also underline that the strategy must now lead to concrete regulatory steps in order to properly protect our health and the environment, without further delay.

The EU chemicals strategy is an important pillar in achieving the European Commission’s goal to move towards a zero-pollution ambition under the EU Green Deal.

In the running up to the publication of the EU chemicals strategy, the EDC-Free Europe coalition shared its key recommendations for a reformed European regulatory framework on endocrine disrupting chemicals. Many of these have now been acknowledged in the new strategy.

On endocrine disruptors specifically, the European Commission’s chemicals strategy commits to:

  • Establish a legally binding hazard identification of endocrine disruptors, based on the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), building on criteria already developed for pesticides and biocides, and apply it across all legislation;
  • Ensure that endocrine disruptors are banned in consumer products as soon as they are identified, allowing their use only where it is proven to be essential for society;
  • Introduce endocrine disruptors as a category of substances of very high concern under REACH;
  • Ensure that sufficient and appropriate information is made available to authorities to allow the identification of endocrine disruptors by reviewing and strengthening information requirements across legislation;
  • Accelerate the development and uptake of methods to generate information on endocrine disruptors through screening and testing of substances.

In relation to other provisions for most hazardous chemicals, the European Commission commits to:

  • Extend the generic approach to risk management to ensure that consumer products – including, among other things, food contact materials, toys, childcare articles, cosmetics, detergents, furniture and textiles - do not contain chemicals that cause cancers, gene mutations, affect the reproductive or the endocrine system, or are persistent and bioaccumulative;
  • In a transition phase, until the generic approach to risk management is in place, prioritise all of the above-listed substances for restrictions for all uses and through a grouping approach, instead of regulating them one by one;
  • Ensure the safety of children from hazardous chemicals in childcare articles and other products for children (other than toys already covered by EU legislation);
  • Define criteria for essential use;
  • Reinforce the regulation of chemical contaminants in food to ensure a high level of human health protection;
  • Ban all PFAS as a group in fire-fighting foams as well as in other uses, allowing their use only where they are essential for society and take other specific actions on PFAS at European and global level.

An online petition launched by WeMove.EU, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the European Environment Bureau (EEB) - calling on EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans to guarantee that the EU chemicals strategy fully lives up to the Commission’s commitments towards achieving a toxic-free environment – has been signed by over 126,600 citizens.  

In addition to the chemicals strategy, the European Commission this week also published the results of its conducted fitness check on Europe’s legislation on endocrine disruptors. These conclusions fed into the EU chemicals strategy.