A new report from EDC-Free Europe partner CHEM Trust, titled "Chemical cocktails - the neglected threat of toxic mixtures and how to fix it", highlights the reality of our exposure to multiple chemicals, the threat it represents to our health and the wider environment, and how legislation needs to change to protect us.
In the report, CHEM Trust calls for urgent action from the EU to better protect people and the wider environment from exposure to real-life chemical cocktails. The analysis identifies workable and effective policy solutions available to address this complex problem.
Our exposure to multiple chemicals...
During just one day, you and I can be exposed to many chemicals from multiple sources, such as PFAS from our rain jacket and the bakery bag holding our croissant; bisphenols from our reusable water bottle and the receipt we’ve been handed at the till; flame retardants from our sofa and TV equipment; pesticide residues from the apple we have at our lunch break, and many more background contaminants present in our indoor air, drinking water and food.
...and the threat this represents
We don’t know the full composition of the chemical mixtures we (and the environment) are exposed to on a daily basis. However, we know that dozens to hundreds of chemical pollutants can be detected in our bodies, our children’s bodies as well as in environmental samples. Decades of research have demonstrated that exposure to real-life mixtures made up of various individual chemicals present at levels considered safe actually trigger adverse effects. This is because when added together as a mixture, chemicals can reinforce each other’s negative impact. This is the mixture effect.
This cocktail of chemicals also ends up in the environment via wastewater discharge, air deposition, sewage sludge spreading and many other routes; exposing aquatic and terrestrial wildlife to mixtures of these harmful substances.
Why is current legislation not sufficient?
The current approach to chemical safety assesses one chemical at a time and in isolation. The true risks resulting from combined exposure to numerous chemicals, even at low levels, are being vastly underestimated. This means we lack proper protection from our real-life exposure to a large number of different chemicals, explains CHEM Trust.
Why talk about this now?
The new EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability includes important policy commitments to address the risks from mixture exposures. After decades of inaction of dealing with chemical cocktails there is no more time to delay. CHEM Trust outlines in the report the workable, effective policy solutions that could be implemented to address this pressing issue.
- Full report: CHEM Trust - Chemical Cocktails: The neglected threat of toxic mixtures and how to fix it (2022)
- Executive summary (2022)
- Illustrations developed by CHEM Trust:
- Chemical pollutants in the home: What are they and where do they come from?
- Chemical pollutants in the environment: What are they and where do they come from?
- Something from nothing - mixture toxicity matters. How can small amounts of a mixture of chemicals have an impact?
- What is a Mixture Assessment Factor or MAF? An illustration using the 'risk cup'.
- Decades of inaction on mixtures toxicity, from the 1980s onwards.