Comment by Dolores Romano, EEB Senior Policy Officer for Chemicals, on the study just made public by the European Commission’s DG Environment on the benefits of EU chemicals legislation on human health and the environment:
The study highlights the major role of chemicals legislation in reducing exposure to chemicals, reducing chemical-related human diseases and reducing the impacts of chemicals on wildlife.
It shows how the CLP and REACH regulations have improved knowledge of chemical properties and of safer uses of chemicals, improving risk management measures in companies and, therefore, reducing the exposure of workers, the environment and people to hazardous chemicals.
A previous survey had already shown that over 50% of SMEs found that REACH was improving risk management measures in their companies.
CLP and REACH have boosted physicochemical and (eco)toxicological information. For example, the number of substances classified by industry (known as self-classifications) as carcinogens has increased by 284% and the number classed as mutagens has grown by 3000%.
Using bio-monitoring data from Germany, the study shows how regulatory pressure and other factors have lowered people’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
Finally, the study monetises the cost savings of the reduction in the occurrence of occupational skin and asthma diseases attributed to chemical exposure in Europe. It found costs savings of €1.59-1.87 billion for skin diseases and €250 million for asthma for the period 2004-2013.
Although the study has only looked at a minimum part of the impacts of chemicals legislation, it already shows the importance to preserve and improve these regulations.
The Commission’s attempts to water down chemicals legislation, in particular REACH, in order to reduce industry costs will have a huge impact on our health and environment, as this study shows.