Since 2011, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has taken initiatives for measures in relation to almost 40 hazardous chemicals, which have been regulated within the EU. Thereby, Sweden has taken a leading role in the EU´s work to protect human health and the environment from hazardous substances. This is apparent from the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s report submitted today to the Government of Sweden on its commission to draw up and implement an action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment.
“It is fundamental to a sustainable society that we have a high level of protection for human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals. The action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment is contributing significantly to reducing the risks, although we continue to face major challenges, regarding hazardous substances in articles for example,” says Director-General of the Swedish Chemicals Agency Nina Cromnier.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency was commissioned by the the Government of Sweden with drawing up and implementing an action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment. In the report submitted by the Swedish Chemicals Agency to the Government, the Agency presents the work that has been done at the national level in Sweden, within the EU, and internationally within the framework of the action plan since its inception in 2011. Under the action plan, Sweden has been able to take a leading role in submitting proposals for measures to protect human health and the environment against hazardous substances within the EU.
During the period 2011–2017, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has contributed data and proposals in respect of 39 chemical substances, which have subsequently been restricted in the EU’s chemicals regulations. This means that in relation to population, Sweden is the most active EU Member State when it comes to developing the EU’s chemicals legislation. The substances that the Swedish Chemicals Agency has taken the initiative to regulate at the EU level include a number of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and cadmium. Sweden has also urged for stricter limits in the EU’s Toy Safety Directive for bisphenol A (BPA) and lead in toys. At the international level, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has strengthened its efforts to contribute to regulations of chemical substances in global conventions.
Under the action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has also intensified its enforcement of hazardous substances in consumer articles in Sweden. The Agency’s inspections are focused in particular on articles that children and young people come into contact with such as toys, jewellery, clothing and home electronics. A large number of products with prohibited substances have been found in these inspections and the number of prosecutions notifications has increased. The Swedish Chemicals Agency has also initiated dialogues with industries in Sweden to encourage companies to replace hazardous substances in their products. Together with the National Agency for Public Procurement, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has developed procurement criteria to make it easier for preschools to make demands of their suppliers in respect of chemicals. Within the frame of the action plan, the Swedish Chemicals Agency has also started a network of municipalities for a toxic-free everyday environment.
In this new report, the Swedish Chemicals Agency highlights three principal challenges in protecting human health and the environment from hazardous substances. These challenges are that there are already large number of articles containing hazardous substances and their number is expected to grow; that food and drinking water are still being contaminated by hazardous substances; and that children and young people are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of chemicals.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency concludes that in order to meet the challenges ahead, it is important to continue working with proposals to limit hazardous substances within the EU and to push for making the EU’s processes more effective. The Swedish Chemicals Agency has identified close to 40 hazardous substances and has begun, or has plans to begin, working with these substances within the EU in the near future. In the coming years, the Swedish Chemicals Agency also intends to expand its work with identifying hazardous substances that are sometimes found in the products and articles with which we surround ourselves in our everyday lives.
“We are proud of what we have achieved to date as part of the action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment, and we see a need to continue to take a long-term approach and work methodically to protect human health and the environment. To be able to meet the challenges of the future in the chemicals area, we propose that the Swedish Government establishes a permanent level for work for a toxic-free everyday environment,” says Nina Cromnier.
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