The European Commission has presented a draft regulation on the sustainable use of pesticides, which aims to drastically reduce their application. The German Environment Agency (UBA) welcomes the proposed regulation but believes its guidelines could be improved to ensure it works in practice. read more
Significant progress has been made in the chemical industry in terms of emissions and chemical safety. The industry itself is now far more aware of the fact that apart from being a driver of progress, chemicals also pose a threat to human health and the environment. This increased awareness was largely attributable to the adoption of laws requiring that chemicals be investigated and assessed before being placed on the market. Hence the chemical industry is one of the most strictly regulated sectors when it comes environmental protection.
But there’s still work to be done. While cases of acute poisoning have become less frequent, chronic illnesses provoked by chemicals in indoor air, consumer products and food remain a concern. And unfortunately, pesticides – their name notwithstanding – affect not only pests but also non-pests, whereby examples of this phenomenon abound. The decline in farmland biodiversity is largely attributable to the fact that pesticides are a death knoll for the forage of many animal species.
Biocides from facade plaster and boat paint are harmful to water. And while pharmaceutical drugs help keep both humans, farm animals and pets healthy, the residues they leave in our soil and water can be detrimental to the organisms that live there. Also, new risks and threats are becoming a cause of great concern: Minute concentrations of hormones from various chemical substances are reprotoxic for both plants and animals. Persistent non-biodegradable inputs accumulate in ecosystems and living organisms. New investigation methods are needed in order to investigate the properties of nanomaterials. And finally, these kinds of toxic substances have an environmental impact not singly, but rather collectively and often cumulatively as well.
Chemical safety is a major cause for concern nowadays in Europe and around the world. In the interest of strengthening domestic markets and cutting costs, the EU has been gradually replacing national approval and assessment procedures with European ones. But this of course does not absolve the member states from meeting their responsibilities, for they are still required to take on the key assessment, management and monitoring tasks. As the leading chemical producer in Europe and number four worldwide, Germany has a particular stewardship responsibility in this domain. Moreover, the steady growth in international trade calls for worldwide measures; for many problems that once afflicted Europe such as DDT toxicity and dioxin and furan emissions remain unresolved elsewhere. And while some progress has been made, we are far from achieving sustainable chemicals policies.
"PARC": EU research partnership on chemical risk assessment launches
How dangerous are chemicals that we use and come into contact with every day? The "PARC" initiative of the European Union (EU), launched in Paris on 11 May 2022, is breaking new ground in the assessment of chemical substances. The aim is to improve knowledge about chemical substances in order to better protect human health and the environment. read more
Parts of the European population have alarmingly high levels of pollutant exposure
Some of Europe’s population have alarmingly high levels of exposure to pollutants. This is the conclusion of the European human biomonitoring initiative HBM4EU, coordinated by UBA. Plasticisers were detected in all children and adolescents examined, and per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are also present in human blood in quantities that are in some cases too high. read more
New measures to protect natural groundwater against trace substances
The residues of pharmaceutical drugs, plant protection products, biocides and other chemicals can have a negative impact on water bodies and drinking water quality, even in low concentrations. As part of the Federal Government's Trace Substance Strategy, interest groups are currently developing voluntary measures at roundtables to reduce the burden on the environment. read more
Pesticide authorisations undermine environmental protection
Under the current legal situation, pesticides are authorised in Germany even though scientific findings show that they are harmful to the environment. The German authorities are currently unable to effectively protect the environment from harmful pesticides. This should be re-regulated under European law. read more
Avoiding pollutants in construction materials
Building materials such as bituminous sheeting, roofing tiles, exterior rendering and plastered facades can release harmful substances into the environment during the building phase, says a new study by the German Environment Agency (UBA). The good news is that pollutant leaching from building envelopes can be prevented almost entirely with little effort. read more
Novel materials should be safe and sustainable
In a joint recommendation, three German higher federal authorities paint draw a picture of how the development of safe and sustainable novel advanced materials can be controlled and regulated. The paper deals with the aspects of risk assessment, sustainaability and control with regard to good governance and outlines relevant fields of action. read more
Rise in use of problematic plant protection products
Sales volumes of plant protection products (pesticides) in the agricultural sector remain high, says data from the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). After a temporary decline in sales in 2018/2019, farmers demonstrated greater demand for specific problematic active substances, including insecticides that are dangerous to bees and herbicides critical to groundwater. read more