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EU unveils plan for ‘biggest ban ever’ on dangerous chemicals

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Thousands of products chemicals potentially harmful they could soon be banned in Europe as a result of restrictions that even environmental activists have called “the strictest yet”.

Earlier this year, scientists warned that chemical contamination had crossed a “limit planetary” that could end in the collapse of ecosystems around the world. For example, they consider that this situation is affecting the decline in human fertility rates and is behind more than two million deaths a year.

The “restrictions roadmap” of the EU published on Monday April 25 was conceived as a first step to ban toxic substances linked to cancer, hormonal disruption, reproductive disorders, obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

The industry believes that even 12,000 substances could finally disappear with this proposal, which would constitute, according to the experts of the European Environmental Office (BSE), the “world’s largest ban on toxic chemicals”.

Tatiana Santos, the office’s chemicals policy manager, has commented that “EU chemical controls are usually painfully slow, but the EU is planning the boldest detox we’ve ever seen. The petrochemical industry is shocked by what is now on the table. It promises to improve the safety of nearly all manufactured products and rapidly reduce the chemical density of our schools, homes and workplaces.”

The plan focuses for the first time on entire classes of chemicalsincluding all flame retardants, bisphenols, PVC plastics, toxic chemicals in single-use diapers, and PFAS, which are also known as “forever chemicals” because of the time they take to naturally degrade.

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For its part, the industry argues that the plan’s approach could affect products sold to the public, such as sun creams and perfumes, that can use a lot of synthetic substances. “Many different ingredients fall into the group of skin sensitizers, so a wide range of cosmetic products would potentially be affected,” said John Chave, CEO of Cosmetics Europe, a trade body. “The effect on consumers would be that there would potentially be less variety in cosmetic products without any safety benefit because the ingredients were already safe,” Chave said.

Beyond the cosmeticsaffected products could include paintings, products from cleaning, adhesives, lubricants Y pesticides. Europe’s Reach system is already the world’s most extensive chemical registry, and the new bans could affect more than a quarter of the industry’s annual turnover. This would mean around €500 billion (£420 billion) per year, according to a study by trade group Cefic.

The industry advocates an approach more specific constraintshowever, the European Chemicals Agency favors treating chemicals in groups because chemical companies have avoided many times bans on individual chemicals by changing their composition to create sister substances that can also be dangerous, but then require long legislative battles to regulate.

This industry tactic, known as “substitution regrettable“, has been criticized by environmental groups for allowing the replacement of substances such as bisphenol A, which disrupts the endocrine system, by other bisphenols. Santos described it as “an cynical and irresponsible tactic by the chemical industry to replace the most harmful banned chemicals with equally harmful ones that are not yet on the regulatory radar. “We have witnessed an unfortunate pattern of substitution for decades to avoid regulation,” he commented.

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More than 190 million synthetic chemicals they are registered worldwide and, on average, a new industrial chemical is created every 1.4 seconds. The UN says it expects the industry’s global value to be more than $5bn (£3.9bn) double by 2030 and quadruple by 2060.

The EU Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius, has commented that the new restrictions “are aimed at reduce the exposure of people and the environment to some of the most harmful chemicalsaddressing a wide range of its uses.

The EU Commissioner for Internal Markets, Thierry Breton, comments that achieving a toxic-free environment would require transparency Y visibility of the commission. “The restrictions roadmap provides that visibility and allows companies and other stakeholders to be better prepared for possible future restrictions”.

Industrial giants such as BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemicals and ExxonMobil used millions of tons of chemicals without completing safety checks between 2014 and 2019, according to research by German environmentalists.

Reference article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/25/eu-unveils-plan-largest-ever-ban-on-dangerous-chemicals

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