Great Detox: EU banning widely used chemicals

Thousands of the world’s most notorious chemicals, from plastic water canisters and food packaging to children’s toys, could be banned in Europe by 2030 under new EU regulations.

The European Commission announced its “Limited Roadmap” on Monday 25thth In April, and if implemented, this will be the largest regulatory removal of chemicals approved anywhere in the world to date.

It targets chemicals that groups of the environment, consumers and health have fought for decades.

Among them is the Minderoo Foundation, an Australian non-profit organization. Through plastics and human health projects, this nonprofit will use research evidence, international cooperation, and support to drive changes in the way plastics are made to eliminate the negative effects of plastics on human health. I am aiming for. Use and management.

The Foundation recently launched a new global study on human health and plastic pollution between the Monaco Center for Science and Boston University.

“Plastic contains about 10,500 chemicals added to give it properties such as flexibility, stability, UV resistance and flame resistance. These chemicals leak out of the plastic and our bodies Invades, “said Plastic Director Sala Nrop.Said human health Monaco life.. “I know this because I measured the levels of these chemicals in blood and urine during pregnancy, cord blood and breast milk, semen and urine in children and adults … these chemicals are there, The average person doesn’t know anything about it. “

Studies show that today, about 700 industrial chemicals that did not exist in grandparents are found in humans, and it is suspected that more than half of them are known to cause cancer.

“There was this moving belief that plastics are inert and do not alter or leak chemicals, and there was no other test to prove,” Dunlop said. “The problem is that the company that makes this plastic isn’t paying. We are paying. Currently, the healthcare system and the environment are paying.”

Toxic chemicals are used to make medical devices such as IV drips.

The EU roadmap has been shown to use existing legislation to destroy all flame retardants and bisphenols (widely used in plastics, but often associated with cancer and destroying human hormones). It is a political commitment to ban toxic substances, including chemicals.

It also bans all forms of PVC, the least recyclable plastic on the planet and the fourth most common type of plastic in Europe. It is used in everything from children’s toys and food packaging to shoes, furniture and building materials. It also contains a large amount of toxic additives.

In addition, the roadmap limits all PFAS in a variety of consumer goods, from takeaway packages to dental floss. These are known as “eternal chemicals” because they are virtually impossible to accumulate and remove in environments containing humans, animals, and drinking water.

The list also includes about 2,000 harmful chemicals found in baby products, which are widely used in diapers, pacifiers, and toys with teeth.

“Almost all products manufactured in stores and homes are affected,” said Tatiana Santos, Chemical Policy Manager, European Environment Agency (EEB). “The EU is planning the most daring” detox “I’ve ever seen. Lobbyists in the petrochemical industry are shocked by what is currently on the table. “

Photograph of a supermarket aisle filled with plastic products by Peter Bond

Stop the flow of chemical production

Currently, about 200,000 chemicals are used in Europe, three-quarters of which have proven to be harmful to our health.

The EU has some of the world’s toughest chemical controls, but “in reality, we haven’t been able to control the rising trends in chemical production and pollution,” EEB says, and the industry is on average. We are creating new chemicals every 1.4 seconds.

According to experts, an exciting aspect of this project is to limit the large group of the most dangerous chemicals still in use. By grouping substances, the EU can regulate thousands of compounds at once.

“Regulatory measures dealing with the entire class of chemicals are very necessary and have been postponed for a long time,” says Professor Philip J. Landrigan, a member of the Human Health Unit of the Monaco Center for Science. Monaco life.. “The current approach to testing one chemical at a time is slow, cumbersome, and ineffective in protecting public health.”

“It also enables a’unfortunate alternative’for another member of the chemistry class to be introduced to the market and replace the banned chemicals of the same class,” said Professor Landrigan, director of the World Observatory on Pollution. I will add. Boston University Health. “Examples can be seen with the family of organophosphorus pesticides and when using bisphenol S instead of bisphenol A.”

The EEB estimates that 5,000 to 7,000 substances could eventually fall within the scope of the new proposal, making it the largest ever ban on toxic chemicals.

According to a survey paid by the European chemical industry group CEFIC, the number is close to 12,000 chemicals, which is included in 74% of all consumer and specialty products.

In other words, while the chemical industry outlines the impact of these bans on the sector, millions of consumer products on shelves across Europe today can cause serious health and environmental harm. I admit that.

Why did it take so long?

The European chemical industry is valued at € 534 billion annually and is the fourth largest industry in the EU with major lobbying activities.

Early drafts of this plan have sparked massive protests among the industry, and these companies are expected to attempt to weaken the roadmap as they did in the past.

Member States and the European Commission will review each of the proposed prohibitions in detail. Some chemicals on the roadmap list are already facing EU restrictions, but most are new. Once approved, the ban can take months or years to take effect, perhaps around 2030, the EEB predicts.

It’s too long for a medical professional like Professor Landrigan.

“This is unnecessarily slow. Millions of people, including millions of European children, will be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals during this long break-in period,” he said. say. “As a pediatrician and public health doctor, I wanted a break-in period of less than a couple of years.”

Approximately 2,000 chemicals used in baby products such as toothed rings are banned.Photo flickr: cantaloupe99, Creative Commons

The Restricted Roadmap is part of the European Green Deal, announced in December 2019, and is a pollution-free ambition for a non-toxic environment. All experts agree that it is a big step in the right direction.

“What the Von der Leyen Commission announced today opens a new chapter in combating the heightened threat of harmful chemicals. This” great detox “improves the safety of almost all manufactured products. And promises to rapidly reduce the strength of chemicals in schools, homes and workplaces. It’s time for the EU to turn the language into realistic and urgent action, “said Tatiana Santos of the EEB.

Banning the group of the most harmful chemicals in consumer products forces businesses to move away from the control of harmful chemicals and avoid their production all at once.

“We urgently need different materials,” adds Sarah Dunlop of the Minderu Foundation. “The protocol to ban CFCs and repair holes in the ozone layer was partially realized because scientists discovered various alternatives. You have to do it with plastic.”

The need for effective monitoring

The lack of regulation means that for many years companies have been allowed to share very limited information about the dangerous nature of their products with the authorities. According to German researchers, most substances on the market violate safety regulations. Meanwhile, the level of non-compliance continues to rise, says the European Chemicals Agency. About 93% of the chemicals on the market currently lack important information about potential hazards.

Therefore, the Minderoo Foundation, like the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), is promoting the establishment of a scientific committee of health experts, scientists and policy experts, who are of chemicals. I am studying data on health risks. That of the planet; a group that has the ability to make a difference in public opinion and government policy, as the IPCC did with regard to the climate crisis.

The Foundation is currently compiling a global study of human health and plastic pollution initiated during this year’s Monaco Ocean Week and will submit a report to the Monaco Science Center during the 2024 event.

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