Chemicals

Some 15 or 20 years ago, environmental pollution and chemicals were to all intents and purposes synonymous by virtue of the fact that our waterbodies, soil and air were being polluted by an onslaught of chemical products. Since then, the situation has greatly improved and other environmental concerns have come to the fore.

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.

Member States launch call for evidence on broad PFAS restriction

questionnaire

The national authorities of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark agreed to prepare a REACH restriction proposal with the aim to restrict the manufacture, the placing on the market and the use of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the EU. Companies, scientists and NGOs are invited to fill in the questionnaire, before 31 July 2020, to generate further information. read more

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Chemicals in articles: EU LIFE Project AskREACH

Ein Barcode auf einem Produkt wir mit einem Smartphone gescannt

The AskREACH project aims at raising awareness on Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) in articles among the European population, retailers and industry. AskREACH developed the smartphone app Scan4Chem which can be used to readily receive information on SVHCs in consumer articles or send information requests to suppliers. The European Chemicals Regulation REACH provides the legal framework. read more

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Many bisphenol A alternatives may be endocrine disruptive

Reagenzkolben mit Flüssigkeit

A research project by the German Environment Agency (UBA) tested 44 potential substitutes for bisphenol A (BPA) for a number of different applications and products. The result: 43 of these substances are not recommended for use, either because they have a hormone-mimicking effect or a lack of data has not conclusively disproved evidence of such an effect. read more

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Less use of pesticides in municipalities is possible

Löwenzahn und anderes Unkraut in Ritzen von Treppenstufen einer Steintreppe

Landscape planning and pest control are among the many tasks which municipalities are charged with in their mandate to protect citizens and maintain infrastructure. It often requires the use of plant protection agents and biocides. A specialist conference hosted by the UBA showed that alternative methods are already making it possible to do without chemicals that are harmful to the environment. read more

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The Umweltbundesamt

For our environment