UK not pulling its weight on worst chemicals

Despite being a major player in global chemicals production, the UK is showing little interest in efforts to control the most dangerous substances including carcinogens, a new report suggests.

The report from the European Environment Bureau (EEB), argues that unless the EU chemicals regulation REACH “is better enforced, it will never achieve its aim of removing harmful chemicals from the market”. A Roadmap to Revitalise REACH notes “most Member States, including several with a strong chemicals industry, such as Italy or Ireland, are not contributing at all to the process, while others, like the UK and Spain, are only contributing marginally.”

The report reveals the UK government has only proposed two Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), chemicals including carcinogens and reproductive toxins targeted for phase-out. It notes even Norway, not an EU Member State, has proposed more (6), while France (17) and Germany (44) top the table.

Dr Michael Warhurst, executive director of CHEM Trust, a UK-based charity that promotes safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals, said: “We are very concerned about the performance of the UK government, who seem to have a deliberate strategy of not identifying the chemicals of very high concern. Do we really think it is OK to leave this job to other countries, when UK citizens and wildlife are just as exposed to these hazardous substances?”

CHEM Trust is critical of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) approach to the identification and control of the “worst chemicals”. It points to an online HSE strategy document that states there must be “an overriding UK government policy need for the UK to take the initiative on a substance”.

CHEM Trust says “this shows a worrying lack of commitment to human health and the environment.”


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