The Swedish Chemicals Agency has been assigned by the government to continue work on the action plan during 2015-2020 to achieve a non-toxic everyday environment. Reducing chemical risks in everyday life is a step on the road to reaching the Swedish Parliament's environmental quality objective of A Non-Toxic Environment.
The action plan in 2011–2014 for a non-toxic everyday environment is focused on safeguarding the reproduction of human beings and child health. This focus will remain the same until 2020. This means that we will be developing proposals for concrete measures in fora in Sweden and the EU and at international level, where we believe we will have the greatest success. The new assignment for the period 2015–2020 has been an opportunity for the government to increase the number of measures to be taken at national level as part of the action plan.
Measures in Sweden
Reduce the risks of hazardous chemical substances
The government wants us to investigate the possibility of accomplishing other national measures regarding hazardous chemical substances. The assignment also includes an evaluation of whether national legislation is required for areas where no harmonisation exists and where EU legislation has been proven to provide insufficient protection. We will, for instance, investigate whether more measures are required to reduce the risks connected with bisphenol, triclosan and microplastics.
Action plan for highly fluorinated substances
Highly fluorinated substances are extremely persistent in the environment, and some of these are bioaccumulative and toxic. The pollutants already found in the soil will continue to leach into lakes and the groundwater for many decades to come. Carrying out forceful measures in this area will require broad cooperation with other authorities, researchers, industry and different interest organisations. We are therefore initiating a national action programme regarding highly fluorinated substances. By June 2016 at the latest, we will - if we believe the government will find such measures suitable - be presenting proposals for national and EU regulation to reduce the risks associated with highly fluorinated substances. Fire-fighting products will be given particular priority.
Other national action programmes may be required at a later stage for, say, reducing the risks associated with endocrine-disrupting substances.
Network of municipalities and requirements regarding procurement of chemicals
Several municipalities are working actively in the area of a non-toxic everyday environment, particularly in pre-schools. We will be initiating a network for municipalities to further stimulate and support their work. The combination of the large number of chemical substances used in the production of articles and then used in the articles once they are produced makes it impossible to establish legislation that is capable of regulating all chemical substances in detail. The requirements regarding the procurement of chemicals could form an important complement to legislation. Within the network and in other ways we will seek to ensure that the guidance provided by the Swedish Competition Authority on environmental procurement for pre-schools is made known to and used by county councils and municipalities.
Increase pupils’ knowledge of sustainable consumption
The Swedish Chemicals Agency considers it important that the action plan during the years 2015–2020 for a Non-Toxic Environment contributes to an increase in the knowledge of pre-school and school pupils in the area of sustainable development. The Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation has been working for many years within a large network including pre-schools and schools. In cooperation with the Foundation, we will be pressing for A Non-Toxic Environment to be included in the Grön Flagg (Green Flag) system and to become an integral part of the pedagogical work of schools and pre-schools.
Continued enforcement of banned substances in articles
Our enforcement of the legislation on banned substances in articles has led to many items being withdrawn from the market. The articles published in the local media and also the information we provide have a knock-on effect, meaning that those companies not yet subject to inspection ensure that they comply with the legislation. Enforcement continues to be an important area under the action plan.
Measures within the EU
EU legislation is still the basic instrument for reaching the targets stated in the action plan and the environmental quality objective of A Non-Toxic Environment. We will therefore continue to work actively within the EU context.
Measures to develop EU legislation
EU legislation needs development within the areas of hormone-disrupting substances, highly fluorinated substances, nanomaterials and combination effects. It is particularly important that the European Commission elaborates its criteria proposals for identifying hormone-disrupting substances. These criteria would also facilitate measures at national level, such as setting requirements for public procurement.
Current proposals regarding hazardous chemical substances
We will continue to propose EU measures regarding hazardous chemical substances by providing decision documentation within four EU processes:
- substance assessment
- harmonised classification and labelling
- particularly hazardous substances (Candidate List)
- bans (restrictions relating to use).
We consider it important to be active in all four processes in the long term. These processes are dependent on each other and should be regarded as an entirety. Highly fluorinated substances may appear in several of the processes.
Work to set up an action plan regarding highly fluorinated substances
The group of highly fluorinated substances contains many hundreds of substances. An inclusive approach is required if the measures achieved are to be effective. We will urge the EU to develop an action plan to reduce the risks associated with highly fluorinated substances.
The assignment during the period 2015–2017 to achieve a non-toxic everyday environment means that we will increase our efforts in terms of contact with single companies and groups of companies in Sweden. We will maintain dialogue with companies on issues such as bisphenols, microplastics and triclosan, and other chlorinated preservatives. We are co-operating with the Medical Products Agency in several of these dialogues. Our national action plan on highly fluorinated substances will involve co-operation with many actors, including companies.
Support the development of global conventions and other agreements
Articles that we buy in Sweden are to a large extent manufactured in other countries, often outside the EU. The international product and supply chains are normally long and complex. It is therefore becoming more and more important to initiate new ones and to continue to develop existing global conventions and other international agreements. We will continue supporting the government in its international work. An important target is to establish a voluntary global information system regarding chemical substances in articles within the framework of the International Chemicals Strategy (SAICM).
Non-toxic and resource-efficient cycle
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has been assigned by the government to investigate how to reduce exposure to hazardous substances emanating from recycled material in terms of the life cycle. Within the framework of the action plan the Swedish Chemicals Agency is helping to achieve a non-toxic everyday environment, and it has received funding of SEK 2 million during 2015 to this end.
Rapport 5/14 Handlingsplan för en giftfri vardag 2015–2020
(Action Plan for a Non-Toxic Everyday Environment, in Swedish with an English summary).