Sweden calls for EU chemicals overhaul

Government committee recommends more precaution, substitution, assessment deadlines

A radical overhaul and tightening up of EU chemicals policy is to be urged by Sweden, according to a government report issued today. Drawn up by a committee launched in 1999 to propose new national chemicals guidelines, the report calls for far-reaching changes to help achieve a non-toxic environment - one of Sweden's 15 environmental policy goals.

Chemicals represent a transboundary issue that can best be tackled through international action, the report says, arguing that future EU policy should be based on the principles underpinning Sweden's current approach. These include the precautionary and substitution principles, as well as those of producer responsibility and polluter pays.

As a starting point, the report suggests, the "knowledge requirement" about existing chemicals should be greatly expanded. All chemical products on sale in the EU should be made subject to the data requirements currently applying only to new products, by 2010 at the latest. Currently, the report points out, only 14% of the approximately 2,500 high-production volume chemicals registered in the EU's database have data fully complying with the "existing substances" regulation, while 21% have no data at all.

Persistent and bioaccumulative organic substances should be phased out, by 2015 at the latest, the report adds, with the most persistent facing a ban from 2010. Moreover, carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproduction-toxic substances should be banned from all products available to consumers from 2007, rather than just from chemical products as at present. In the case of endocrine-disrupting substances, the report calls for research to focus on the development of methods of testing for their presence.

EU legislation will be essential for achieving progress, the report concludes, but adds that there is also an important role for market-driven and voluntary instruments.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 405 1000, and English-language {press release}

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