EU Chemicals Strategy: road to a toxic-free environment

On October 14, 2020 the European Commission adopted the EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainability. The Strategy aims to build a zero-pollution environment in line with Europe’s new agreement towards a toxic-free Union: The Green Deal. This initiative will boost the safeguard of human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals, impulse the development of safe and sustainable alternatives and lead to a smooth trade of safe chemicals within the bounds of the European Union.

But how will this Strategy achieve its aim? By simplifying and reinforcing the EU’s regulatory framework.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how manufacturing and supply chains of crucial chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, struggle to face the complexity of today’s globalized world. Although the EU already holds an exhaustive and protective regulatory framework for chemicals, which has set standards worldwide, it must strengthen its strategy in order to develop sustainable chemicals for human health and climate protection.

Thanks to the ’One substance, one assessment’ approach, the Strategy will ensure simpler and more transparent safety assessment procedures in order to better coordinate European agencies and scientific bodies when dealing with chemicals. At the same time, the Commission will work on the necessity of the European legal framework to quickly show scientific evidence on the risk stemming from harmful chemicals in consumer products. Moreover, in 2022, the Commission envisages to work on ‘’Proposals to extend the generic approach to risk management to ensure that consumer products do not contain chemicals that cause cancers, gene mutations, affect the reproductive or the endocrine system, or are persistent and bioaccumulative and toxic; assess the modalities and timing to extend the same approach to further chemicals including those affecting the immune, neurological or respiratory systems and chemicals toxic to a specific organ ‘’, and ‘’ Introduce or reinforce provisions to take account of the combination effects of chemicals in water, food contact materials, food additives, toys, detergents, cosmetics’’ within the Food Contact Materials Regulation, Cosmetic Products Regulation , Toy Safety Directive, etc.

In addition, the Commision also plans to ‘’introduce mandatory legal requirements under the General Product Safety Directiveand restrictions in REACH to enhance the safety of children from hazardous chemicals in childcare articles and other products for children (other than toys) ‘’ in 2021.

The Strategy will also enhance the Union’s strategic autonomy regarding the manufacturing of crucial chemicals and advance in the research and development towards a sustainable transformation of the chemical industry.

All in all, the EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainability shapes a new long-term vision for the European chemical framework, foreseeing the EU as a competitive contestant worldwide in the race for a safe and green chemical industry.

Leyre Carrasco Alonso

Regulatory Affairs Department


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