Officials are failing to prevent dozens of dangerous chemicals being used in consumer and other products, according to this independent report on Substance Evaluation efforts by European governments.
Around 22,000 chemicals are registered for use in Europe. National authorities began in-depth safety checks of hundreds of substances thought to have dangerous properties in March 2012. By December 2018, high quality checks were completed on 94 substances, of which nearly half (49% or 46) were declared to be unsafe in their current commercial use. The 46 danger substances have been listed for the first time in this review of official records by the European Environmental Bureau.
Agents judged the 46 substances a danger due to their harmful properties and exposure threat to people or the environment. They concluded that protective action is needed in all cases, but no action has yet been taken to control 74% (34) of the 46. Lack of resources is a major cause of inaction, NGOs have been told. Industry is legally permitted to use millions of tonnes of the 34 substances annually. The resulting exposure is likely causing cancer, fertility problems or other health impacts, or creating serious environmental pollution, officials found.
The programme of in-depth checks by member state officials, known substance evaluation under a programme called CoRAP, is significantly off course, with just 94 of 352 (26.7%) cases completed by December 2018. This is largely because officials are given inadequate data by chemical companies. Firms are required by EU law to provide high quality safety data. When they do, cases are resolved within a year. But agents had to order companies to produce more data in 64% of cases since 2012, the records show. Companies generally responded quickly to requests. But once triggered, the data request and review process typically takes 7-9 years to conclude. It afterwards typically takes a further 5-7 years for officials to take action to control a substance, which could include a ban. So once officials suspect a substance is unsafe for current uses and prioritise it for evaluation, it could legally be used to make products for up to 16 years before it is finally brought under control by regulators.