Chemicals

Despite the introduction of the EU chemicals legislation ‘REACH’ in 2006, tens of thousands of industrial chemicals remain on the market and in our daily products which go unchecked for all their potential effects on human health and the environment.

In Europe and around the world, chemicals are widely used by industries to manufacture everyday consumer items, from household products to children’s toys, clothes, furniture and electronic equipment.

Exposure to chemical substances is a growing global problem. Production levels of chemicals have increased from 1 tonne in the 1930s to well over 500 million tonnes today. Chemical production is growing even faster than worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) and population and this is set to continue with the global chemical output predicted to further increase by 63% by 2020. Levels of toxicity are increasing too; new formulations for pesticides, for instance, are 10 to 100 times more toxic than those produced in 1975.

Progress has been made in recent years and some toxic chemicals have been restricted and replaced with safer alternatives. However, the processes of phase out and substitution are too slow and serious knowledge gaps still exist about the adverse impacts of some chemicals. Historically, action on chemicals has only been taken after widespread damage.

Well known examples of this include asbestos and the pesticide DDT, which have caused – and still cause – serious damage to human health and wildlife through their continued release into the environment. DDT started to be phased out in the 1970s and 1980s, yet the chemical remains all pervasive because it is persistent and bioaccumulative, while cancer from exposure to asbestos can take up to 40 years to appear.

The EEB works to improve EU chemicals legislation, including REACH, so that they provide higher levels of protection and help the world advance towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Europe’s aim of a non-toxic environment as agreed in the EU’s Seventh Environmental Action Plan (7EAP). To this end, the EEB profits from its alliances with environmental, consumer, health and scientific organisations, holds regular working group meetings to enable close cooperation with other NGOs, and makes good use of its high level contacts at the European Council, Commission and Parliament.

In addition to pushing for the replacement of dangerous substances, the EEB works to ensure the full implementation of REACH. This includes providing consumers and workers with sufficient information to identify toxic chemicals and make informed choices about the products they purchase. It also means making the restriction and phase out of hazardous chemicals more effective, promoting substitution as a driver for sustainable chemistry and innovation, and requiring the European institutions to become more transparent and effective in truly achieving the objectives and principles of the chemicals legislations.

Finally, as Europe works to move from a traditionally linear economy to a circular economy, EEB staff work in close collaboration to make sure that toxic chemicals do not end up being recycled, but are removed from the system.

1.4 Billion per year

Cost of common reproductive disorders in women

1.7 billions euros

Health cost savings thanks to reduced chemical exposure for skin diseases (2004-2013)

Day 1. 05: Tatiana Santos, EEB - Stakeholder feedback of the authorisation process

Chemicals

Position paper on the REACH review 2018
June 11, 2018
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Statement on article 33 of REACH
June 8, 2018
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Letter to REACH Committee on TiO2
June 6, 2018
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Report on how to protect the Circular Economy from hazardous substances
February 22, 2017
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Briefing on full disclosure of information on chemicals in products
July 7, 2017
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Briefing on POPs in the Circular Economy
July 7, 2017
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Letter to ECHA on microplastics restrictions
June 5, 2018
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Response to EC consultation on chemical product and waste interface
July 18, 2017
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AMR-and-PIE-statement-May-2018
June 19, 2018
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POLICY OPTIONS FOR REGULATING PHARMACEUTICALS IN THE ENVIRONMENT - FINAL CLEAN111
June 21, 2018
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The environmental and health impacts caused by emissions of APIs to the environment - FINAL CLEAN-1
June 19, 2018
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Letter to REACH Committee concerning textiles phthalates nano
April 23, 2018
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Letter to Timmermans on pharmaceuticals in the environment and AMR
April 12, 2018
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POLICY OPTIONS FOR REGULATING PHARMACEUTICALS IN THE ENVIRONMENT
January 31, 2018
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Position Paper: Legally binding protocol on transparency of hazardous chemicals in the SAICM post 2020 framework
January 22, 2018
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Restricted Success: EEB's appraisal of restriction under REACH
July 3, 2017
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EEB views on Risk management of Chemicals
May 18, 2017
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Roadmap to Revitalise REACH
May 11, 2017
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EEB REACH Refit position paper
March 20, 2017
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Letter to the Members of the REACH Committee
February 8, 2017
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