Today the Swedish Chemicals Agency is presenting a final report on the government assignment ‘Action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment 2011–2014’.
In this report we describe our work with the action plan, achieved objectives and proposals for future action. The government has also given the Swedish Chemicals Agency a new assignment to continue this work until 2017.
Since 2011, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has worked with the action plan with the purpose to reduce the risks of chemicals in everyday life. The focus has been on protecting children and adolescents, as they are often more vulnerable than adults to the effects of hazardous chemicals.
Hazardous substances in articles are a growing concern for human health and the environment. There are also problems with our food and drinking water. The production of chemicals worldwide has increased steadily in recent decades because more chemicals are used to manufacture articles to consumers. Hazardous chemicals can affect human health in many ways. Through our efforts with the action plan, we can contribute to improve the health and thus reduce social costs and suffering for people.
Some examples of implemented measures
The Swedish Chemicals Agency has increased the enforcement activities on hazardous substances in articles. In over 10 percent of inspected products, we have discovered banned hazardous substances. The commodity groups that often have deficiencies are toys, jewellery and home electronics.
Many of the activities concern reviewing the EU legislation and further improvements are proposed. Sweden belongs to the group of Member States that has delivered most prohibition proposals and other measures against health and environmentally hazardous chemical substances.
We have successfully supported the government in international affairs. For example, the convention on mercury is now signed by more than 120 countries. We have also pushed for the UNEP Chemicals in Products project.
Instruments complement the legislation
The Swedish Chemicals Agency has proposed economic instruments that we believe can be important complements to the legislation, for example to impose tax on hazardous substances in certain product categories. The government has recently appointed a commission to analyse the matter.
To have dialogues with companies that produce and import toys, textiles and cosmetics are also important complements to the legislation. The dialogues have led to an increased awareness among the companies about how to replace hazardous chemicals in their products. The collaboration has led to the companies participating in the dialogue groups having set goals that go beyond what the law requires today.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency has increased the information to the public so that everyone can learn more about the risks of hazardous substances and make conscious choices in their everyday life. We have published a new website with information to consumers. We also participate in the work to build up the Swedish Consumer Agency's new information service.
The work with the action plan continues
In this report the Swedish Chemicals Agency also suggests how the action plan can be developed in 2015–2020. We suggest to continue pursuing issues such as developing the EU legislation, more cooperation internationally and to maintain a high level of enforcement activities. There is also a need for national action plans for highly fluorinated substances, endocrine disruptors and allergens.