Joint press release by the Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety

State Secretary Flasbarth: Sustainable chemistry is more than just chemical safety

State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry Jochen Flasbarth is calling for greater international effort to improve the protection of man and the environment against chemicals. "The impact of hazardous chemicals on the environment and health does not stop at national borders. The international community must there do all it takes to increase the safety of chemical production and use worldwide and to protect man and the environment from harmful effects. We can only reduce the risks to an ecological and socially acceptable minimum by taking joint action," explained Mr Flasbarth at the kick-off of an international conference in Berlin.

The President of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and patron of the conference, Ms Maria Krautzberger, pointed out that chemicals are ubiquitous in our daily lives, saying: "They are traded worldwide and widespread in products. PFC residues from the manufacture of water-resistant outdoor clothing can be found everywhere in the world, even in the Arctic", said Ms Krautzberger.

The Federal Environment Ministry plans to establish an international competence centre to drive this international process. This centre, emphasised Mr Flasbarth, will work to shape future international chemical policy to become sustainable. Achieving sustainable chemistry is about more than just chemical safety: its core focus is on ecological issues such as the efficient consumption of finite resources, avoidance of hazardous waste, avoidance of emissions of dangerous substances to the environment, the conservation of biodiversity, and other social and economic concerns.

Mr Flasbarth said: "The idea of sustainable chemistry will only gain acceptance if it proves to be an economic success and opens up opportunities for necessary economic and social progress – especially in developing and emerging countries. The existing instruments of chemical management alone are likely not enough to achieve this progress."

UBA's President Krautzberger has indicated that a number of good examples and business concepts of sustainable chemistry already exist: "There is a producer using renewable raw materials such as straw, hay and leaves with the addition of fungal mycelium to produce building materials. The mycelium fungus bonds the raw materials on which it feeds. Heat and pressure form the material into parts such as building boards, packaging or even pieces of furniture. Future applications include automotive parts, for example for interior trim or sound insulation."

Some 200 representatives from government, industry, science and associations will be attending tomorrow's international conference "Sustainable Chemistry 2015: The way forward". The agenda will include both theoretical concerns in sustainable chemistry as well as current practical issues such as the use of perfluorinated chemicals in textile manufacturing and presentations of best practices in sustainable chemistry.

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 sustainable chemistry  chemicals safety