On May 18, 2022, the High Level Roundtable on the Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) held its third meeting. During the meeting, the European Commission (EC) provided an update on the state of implementation of the CSS. According to the written report, main achievements since the last meeting of the High Level Roundtable include:
- Promoting Safe and Sustainable-by-Design Chemicals: The EC proposal for an update of the Industrial Emission Directive was adopted in April 2022. According to the report, the proposal includes provisions that will inter alia promote the use of safer chemicals and the elimination of substances of very high concern (SVHC) by industry. In addition, the EC is progressing with its work on the safe and sustainable-by-design criteria and is developing key performance indicators to measure the industrial transition to safe and sustainable chemicals. The High Level Roundtable was preparing its second report and recommendations on the topic of safe and sustainable by design, which was to be adopted on May 18, 2022.
- Non-Toxic Material Cycles: The EC has made proposals to ensure that substances of concern in products are minimized and tracked through the Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products proposed in March 2022, as well as other initiatives on sustainable products (g., the European Union (EU) strategy for sustainable and circular textiles adopted also in March 2022) and sustainable finance (e.g., development of substantial contribution criteria for environmental objectives under the taxonomy regulation). Regulatory actions are going hand in hand with increased investments in innovative technologies to address the presence of legacy substances in waste streams.
- Tackling the Most Harmful Substances: The report states that the CSS aims to ensure that consumers, vulnerable groups, and the natural environment are more consistently protected from the most harmful substances, including endocrine disruptors and persistent chemicals. To this end, the EC is revising the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation and sectoral product legislation on food contact materials (FCM), cosmetics, and toys to ensure that the most harmful substances are phased out in consumer products and for professional uses, unless their use is proven essential for society. While the approach to risk management is in place, the EC published a restriction roadmap in April 2022 to prioritize those substances for restrictions under REACH for all uses and through grouping, instead of regulating them one by one.Stricter maximum levels for lead and cadmium in certain foodstuffs were adopted in August 2021. The EC has also prepared a proposal for stricter levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in foodstuffs, which is planned to be voted on by member states in June 2022.
According to the report, the EC has asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to prepare a restriction dossier on PFAS under REACH. ECHA performed the assessments and concluded in February 2022 that an EU-wide restriction is justified, as the risks posed by PFAS are currently not adequately controlled, and published an Annex XV restriction report proposing an EU-wide restriction on all PFAS in firefighting foams as the most appropriate means to prevent further groundwater and soil contamination and health risks for people and the environment. The Annex XV restriction report is now subject to public consultation and assessment by the relevant ECHA committees. The opinions are to be delivered in 2023, and the EC will decide then on possible restriction.
The EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027 was adopted in June 2021. The EC committed to propose protective limit values on asbestos, lead, and diisocynates in 2022 and cobalt in 2024 under the Chemical Agents and Carcinogens and Mutagens Directives. The EC further identified reprotoxic substances to be addressed as a priority under the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive to expand the protection of workers.
- Global Chemicals Management: The CSS aims to promote safety and sustainability standards outside the EU. The EU submitted in April 2021 a proposal for the listing of chlorpyrifos in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The report states that subject to the evaluation and recommendation of the review committee, this could lead to a global ban of the substance. In March 2022, the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly reached a consensus to launch negotiations of an international, legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. It also agreed to establish a science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution.