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.

The EEB also works to end pharmaceutical pollution. Over 100,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical products are consumed globally every year (24% in Europe). During their manufacture, use and disposal, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) as well as other chemical ingredients are released into the environment. Click here to find out more about our recent project aimed at highlighting pharmaceutical pollution. 

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

Response to public consultation on endocrine disruptors - July 2018
19 July, 2018
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Position paper on the REACH review 2018
11 June, 2018
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Statement on article 33 of REACH
8 June, 2018
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Letter to REACH Committee on TiO2
6 June, 2018
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Report on how to protect the Circular Economy from hazardous substances
22 February, 2017
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UNEP RCM StatementTallinn 3-4 September 2018
15 October, 2018
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Reprotection-halting-the-EUs-deregulation-drive
18 July, 2018
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Briefing on full disclosure of information on chemicals in products
7 July, 2017
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Briefing on POPs in the Circular Economy
7 July, 2017
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Letter to ECHA on microplastics restrictions
5 June, 2018
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Response to EC consultation on chemical product and waste interface
18 July, 2017
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NGO letter REACH committee on carcinogenic chromate substances,
19 October, 2018
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Letter on the EU POPs reg Recast
4 October, 2018
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Letter REACH committee September 2018
24 September, 2018
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Letter scope of a restriction on uses of microplastics
10 September, 2018
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Letter to EC on short-chain chlorinated paraffins waste limits
31 August, 2018
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EEB_REACH_Review_action 5_Substitution
23 August, 2018
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EEB_REACH_Review_action 1_Registration
23 August, 2018
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Letter to the European Commission on its Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment
1 August, 2018
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Letter to REACH Committee on DEHP in PVC - 2018
6 July, 2018
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