Sweden redraws chemicals, environment, policies

Government plans action on "unwanted" chemical groups, defines environmental goals

Proposals for a completely new approach to chemicals control and overhauled environmental targets have been proposed by the Swedish government. The bill is intended to fulfil prime minister Göran Persson's pledge to solve Sweden's major environmental problems within one generation (ENDS Daily 22 September 1997).

The proposals come at a time of considerable EU interest in finding new approaches to chemicals control. European ministers agreed last month that current risk assessment programmes were moving too slowly and that EU chemicals policy should be reviewed (ENDS Daily 27 April). Sweden appears to be in a hurry to move on with its own ideas.

The government plans to split chemicals into four groups according to "unwanted" properties: carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, hormone disruption, and persistence and bioaccumulation. Action would then be taken to reduce exposure to chemicals placed in these groups, while their use in new products would be banned within 10 to 15 years.

A new chemicals commission comprising experts from government agencies, scientists, industry, NGOs and international experts would be set up to define detailed criteria for allocating chemicals to these groups and assessing the availability of alternatives.

The government also makes specific proposals on some chemicals, including heavy metals, PVC and phthalate plasticisers. "If the environmental impact of PVC is not reduced, PVC plastic will be banned," it said. It proposes to ban the use of phthalates in PVC toys for children under three, although no date has been set. Bans on phthalates in "emissive" applications such as on roofs and in cars are also proposed.

Anita Ringström of the Swedish Chemical Industries Association, told ENDS Daily that the government's proposals were "more realistic" than those made by the chemicals policy committee last year (ENDS Daily 16 June 1997). She felt there would be room to argue against the inclusion of chemicals in the specified groups on the basis of risk assessment.

A second part of the bill clarifies its environmental priorities and proposes a new set of 15 clear targets for the achievement of a sustainable Sweden within one generation. The targets include action on clean air, groundwater, the marine and urban environments, eutrophication and wildlife and habitats. In the last year, the government has proposed an environmental code and other bills as a legislative basis for achieving its new policy goals (ENDS Daily 22 January).

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 8 405 1000.

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