The Swedish chemicals agency has identified priorities needed to help the country meet its goals for a non-toxic environment.
Last year Kemi said the 2020 national target will not be achieved "by the measures and instruments already in place".
Now, in a just released report submitted to the country’s EPA as part of its evaluation of environmental goals every four years, the agency has set three strategic development areas.
The first is on better knowledge and information. It says that information should be more accessible on the chemical content of goods, especially concerning low-volume substances and nanomaterials in the EU. Here and on the international stage requirements "must be strengthened", the agency said. Additionally, decisions need to be taken based on the precautionary principle to prevent damage of hazardous substances.
Another priority is eliminating substances of concern from the beginning of the product cycle. Research is needed, Kemi said, on innovative approaches to substances, materials and goods that can be included in non-toxic and resource efficient cycles. Existing material flows need to be "detoxified", it added.
"The use of particularly hazardous substances needs to cease and globally binding agreements are needed" to phase them out – notably for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and endocrine disruptors.
The third priority is effective legislation and supervision to ensure a high level of protection. Legislation in the EU needs to be applied and developed "more quickly" to identify and address potential chemical threats, Kemi said.
The EU should provide a high level of protection based on the needs of children and other sensitive groups, take into account combination effects and as far as possible regulate chemicals in groups. The EU should also bolster its supervision of rapidly increasing imports from countries with less developed chemicals policies, Kemi said.
Sweden had originally established six prerequisites for reducing toxins from the environment by 2020. In its report, Kemi explains the reasons why they have not been met:
- total exposure to chemical substances: although basic legislation has been introduced to reduce exposure to hazardous substances, "important components" are still missing. A major stumbling block for controlling chemicals is growing e-commerce and increased production from more lax regimes outside the EU that feeds demand;
- use of particularly hazardous substances: measures to curb this, such as REACH authorisation, face "limitations" and "extensive" measures are needed to achieve sufficient protection for human health in the long term;
- knowledge of chemical and environmental properties: for many substances knowledge on distribution, exposure and effects is "still lacking". This is "especially true" for low-volume substances, nanomaterials and combination effects;
- information on hazardous substances in articles: this is "still very much inadequate". Many goods are manufactured outside the EU, which makes the information flow "more difficult";
- polluted areas: contaminated sites must be addressed sooner, requiring more effective supervisory work, government support and the development of innovative technologies;
- post-2020 development: it is "not possible" to make a clear forecast for a non-toxic environment after 2020 because of the vast number of substances and missing information about their use and exposure. "Current instruments provide the conditions for managing chemical production within the EU, but more efforts are needed to tackle issues generated by growing globalised production."
The EU's non-toxic environment strategy, which was due by the end of 2018, has been postponed until the new European Commission takes office in late October.
Under the 7th Environment Action Programme, which steers the bloc's policies until 2020, the Commission is legally obliged to release its strategy this year on how it will eliminate toxic substances from the environment.