Post-Brexit chemical regime risks UK safety standards, warns environmental groups

Environmental groups and a leading cancer charity have warned that a new post-Brexit regime to regulate toxic chemicals risks leaving the UK a “dumping ground” for toxic substances. harmful.

The warnings come after the UK government announced a policy paper set out their approach to regulating hazardous chemicals will differ from the EU’s REACH chemical safety regime, which no longer applies in the UK after Brexit.

The article revealed that of the 10 potentially hazardous chemicals that were added to the EU’s watch list of “substances of great concern” (SVHC) in 2021, only four were considered for inclusion. to the UK equivalent list.

Since leaving the EU, the UK government has worked to create the REACH regime equivalent to the REACH regime, including building a complete database of all chemicals. But as of January this year, it has not been bound to follow the EU list.

Environmental groups say the decision not to even consider six chemicals that have been added to the EU’s SVHC list by 2021 represents a major departure from Brussels and risks significantly undermining safety standards of the United Kingdom over time.

The article comes a week after George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, announced that UK-based companies would have additional two years for the full registration of chemicals with the UK REACH database.

Chemicals on the SVHC “candidate list” are subject to additional testing and monitoring and – if found to be harmful – may be subject to tighter controls to limit their usability chemical or set a ‘decommissioning’ date after which it cannot be used.

Dr Michael Warhurst, chief executive officer of the CHEM Trust, a charity, warned that creating a shorter list, while relying in part on evidence provided voluntarily by industry, for assessment. chemicals, which risks creating a weaker safety regime in the UK.

“The government is trying to claim the system is as good as the EU’s, but somehow the UK has superior science and can make different decisions,” he said.

He added that experience has shown that including chemicals on the SVHC list has a deterrent effect encouraging companies to look for safer alternatives, even before the chemicals are subject to contamination. more formal control.

Zoe Avison, policy analyst at environmental charity Green Alliance, said that relying on voluntary data submissions by chemical companies “almost certainly sees hazardous substances falling through fissure”.

Thalie Martini, chief executive of Breast Cancer UK, said the policy paper represented a “major weakening” of the UK’s post-Brexit safe regime, which would limit the ability of regulators to responsible for protecting the public from dangerous chemicals associated with breast cancer.

“Goverment [is] develop a system that lacks public scrutiny, erodes consumers’ right to know and can lead to regulatory delays of many years, leading to the UK becoming a dumping ground prices for harmful chemicals,” she added.

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Among the chemicals the UK has decided not to assess are BENEFITS bisphenol (BPB), an endocrine-reducing agent that has been included in the EU’s SVHC list to limit its ability to replace bisphenol A, which has been banned in infant feeding bottles.

So far no company has applied for permission to use BPB in the UK or EU, but it is registered with the US Food and Drug Administration.

Other chemicals not considered for inclusion on the UK SVHC list, unless new evidence comes to light, are Autoboric acid, not registered for use in the UK or EU; a group of chemicals called MCCP; antibacterial agent, Glutaral, a solvent, Tetraglyme; and Lysmeral, a chemical used in polishes, perfumes, and printing inks.

The Department for the Environment, Defra, says that the list of four chemicals has been drawn up after a detailed review by the UK regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Officials said decisions were based in part on whether the chemical was used in the UK and whether other equivalent safety measures had been put in place. The HSE review will be published soon.

The spokesperson added: “We are committed to maintaining an effective regulatory system for the management and control of chemicals, in order to protect human health and the environment and be able to respond to risks. emerging.”

The Chemical Industry Association, the industry lobby group, said it “welcomes” the guidelines set forth by the government, particularly the call for evidence from the industry.

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