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Preventive chemicals control

Preventive chemicals control aims to improve control of the flow of chemicals onto the market and to provide possibilities to reduce exposure to hazardous substances during their subsequent use and disposal. Various measures are applied early in the supply chain, when chemicals are placed on the market, making the role of importers and producers particularly important.

Prevention is better than cure

Traditionally, pollution control often takes place as an end-of-pipe activity but preventing pollution at the beginning of the supply chain offers an opportunity to achieve additional benefits for the population and the environment. Choosing a preventive approach protects not only human health and natural resources but will often also have financial benefits. The sooner action is taken to reduce adverse effects from chemicals, the cheaper it will be for society as well for industry because taking early action is much less complicated than to introduce measures towards widespread uses.

Preventive chemicals control

Measures of chemicals control early in the supply chain, when chemicals are placed on the market, all aim to improve control of the flow of chemicals onto the market and to provide possibilities to reduce exposure to hazardous substances during their subsequent use and disposal. This is what we call preventive chemicals control.

Regulating the placing of chemicals on the market and clarifying the responsibilities of the suppliers of chemicals, especially the producers and importers, is an area of legislation that is well established in a number of countries, whereas many other countries do not have this kind of legislation in place yet. Introducing such legislation allows for the control of chemicals when, or even before, they are placed on the national market and will help to reduce health and environmental problems that might occur later in the lifecycle of the chemical. This approach is often highly cost-effective compared to measures taken once chemicals are already spread in society or the environment.

Furthermore, some merits behind focusing the chemicals control and the legislation on the producers and importers could be:

  • There are relatively few producers and importers of chemicals compared to the number of retailers and users.
  • Producers and importers generally have better knowledge of their respective products (and the contents) than their clients.
  • Product information (label/safety data sheet according to GHS) should be produced by producers and importers and distributed to retailers and users.
Image of different actors in the supply chain for chemicals

Some first steps of risk management

The following measures constitute the first general steps of risk management and are prerequisites for efficient risk management at later steps of the supply chain irrespective of the type of use or other handling:

  • Build up knowledge on health and environmental hazards from chemical substances.
  • Disseminate information on hazards, risks, and precautionary measures accompanying the chemicals when supplied to professional users and private consumers.
  • Phase out the most hazardous substances.

This makes the role of the importers and producers of particular interest because it is reasonable that they should identify and assess all hazardous properties and foreseeable risks to human health and the environment before they place a chemical on the market.

Read more about how to find information about suppliers and chemicals on the market.

A separate and coherent legislation on chemicals placed on the market

Chemicals placed on the market can be regulated in specific chemicals legislation separately from other legislation. A benefit with this is that such a chemicals legislation can support all other areas where chemicals are of concern, such as protecting the environment, worker and consumer health and safety. Efficient control of the flow of chemicals onto the market, which is the aim of chemicals legislation, is complementary to risk management in the handling of chemicals, irrespective of where or for what purpose.

Companies that place chemicals on the market should have the responsibility for assessing and classifying them with regards to hazard and for providing information that describes hazards, risks, and instructions for safe use (labels and safety data sheets, SDS). Furthermore, they should comply with possible bans and restrictions. Regulating these obligations of suppliers in many laws and regulations issued by several ministries and authorities can complicate the legislation as well as its implementation and enforcement. A chemical that is used in several sectors has the same intrinsic properties regarding health and environmental hazards irrespective of its use, and it will be confusing if the chemical is classified and labelled in different ways.

Read more about legislation on chemicals and find an example of possible legal text defining the scope of a law on preventive chemicals control in our Guidance on legislation on chemicals on the market, chapter 4.1.4.

Read more about legal frameworks for chemicals control.


Illustrations by Maja Modén.

Last published 8 March 2022