REACH - Eliminating Toxic Chemicals in the EU
Working to ensure that by 2020 all consumer products are free of hazardous chemicals
01.04.2004 | WECF Campaign
|Donors:||European Commission, DG Environment; Ministry of Housing Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM), The Netherlands|
|Partners:||WEN, Deutscher Hausfrauenbund, EWMD, BUND, Greenpeace, EEB, ZijActief|
|Issues:||Chemicals & Health|
|Duration:||01/2004 - 12/2006|
Women in Europe are concerned about chemicals. We are concerned about the chemicals that we are exposed to everywhere, every day, without our knowledge: in the shower, in front of the computer, in the kitchen and in the workplace. These chemicals are polluting our air, rivers, seas and wildlife.
To date, up to 300 chemicals have been detected in the human body alone. These chemicals are passed on by each generation, directly from mother to child. Alarmingly, of the 100 000 chemicals on the European market, only 14% have ever been tested for their health and environment effects. This is an unacceptable regulatory gap.
As women, we are differently affected by hazardous chemicals. This does not only concern women’s health in general, but also women’s reproductive health and the healthy development of future generations. In 2006, we published the first international brochure written by women for women, on hazardous chemicals in our daily environment.
“Women and their toxic world” examines how women’s lives and that of future generations are threatened by hazardous chemicals, why strong chemicals policies are needed to end this threat and what women can do to protect themselves and future generations.
- Download the brochure Women and Their Toxic World
- Download the updated brochure text following the adoption of the new EU chemicals policy REACH
The WECF vision is that by 2020 all hazardous chemicals are phased out of everyday consumer products. In order to make consumer products safe, any chemicals policy must have these chemicals policy principles at heart:
- the precautionary principle
- the substitution principle
- the polluter-pays principle
- the public’s right to know
REACH- the new EU chemicals legislation
Over the last few years, WECF has lobbied intensively for a new EU chemicals policy. The new EU chemicals policy, called REACH, was necessary because little is known about more than 100 000 chemicals on the EU market. As a result hazardous chemicals find a widespread application in everyday consumer products, even if they are known to cause a variety of serious and irreversible health effects.
Following years of tough negotiations and unprecedented industry pressure REACH was finally adopted in December 2006 by the European Parliament and EU member states. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals and has entered into force in June 2007.
While REACH is certainly an important step towards a toxic-free future, WECF is very concerned about the many loopholes in the final text. Therefore, we question the effectiveness of REACH in terms of its capacity to protect women and future generations from hazardous chemicals in their everyday lives.
Find out more about WECF’s assessment of REACH from this in the BBC interview with WECF policy coordinator, Daniela Rosche.
For more information about the new chemicals law you can also consult the NGO REACH guide for consumers, My Voice. A more detailed analysis of REACH is given in the activist guide to REACH Navigating REACH.
- More about REACH
- NGO Media Advisory REACH entry into force, May 2007
- NGO Open Letter to European Commission concerning the loopholes in REACH and entry into force, May 2007
- WECF letter to Commission President Barroso
Request for an internal review of the EU Commission workings concerning the selection of the Executive Director for the European Chemicals Agency, September 2007.
Substitution under REACH: will it make consumer products safer?
One of the key indicators of the effectiveness of REACH will be the substitution of hazardous chemicals in the Authorization procedure. A list of hazardous chemicals that will need to be substituted by safer alternative is expected to be available from the website of the new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as early as fall 2008.
Nevertheless it is important that consumers start asking companies and retailers now about hazardous chemicals in everyday consumer products. The new WECF pocket size guide tells consumers how to shop for toxic free products and which chemicals to watch out for.
Download the WECF shoppers guide.
It is important for companies and producers of consumer goods to know, which chemicals the public is especially concerned about. WECF is part of a joint NGO project that aims at putting together a list of chemicals that should no longer be used in consumer products. Find out more about this project and watch out for a release of the NGO chemicals “blacklist” in 2008.
In the meantime, find out from these websites below, which companies are leading the toxic-free future:
Chemicals in the household
For an overview of a selection of chemicals in the home and what companies are doing to substitute hazardous chemicals, read the Greenpeace progress report. More in the “Substitute with Style” report.
EU Pesticides Legislation
Despite existing legislation pesticides are still in widespread use in the EU. Because of their inherent toxicity to humans and the environment, WECF is concerned with how they are regulated. Especially women and future generations bear the burden of contamination and disease stemming from hazardous chemicals in food, air, water and soil.
Since 2006, the EU is working to reform its pesticides legislation in the form of a Thematic Strategy on Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The Thematic Strategy sets out the direction for regulating and reducing the use of pesticides in the EU in a so-called Framework Directive.
Following the release of the draft legislation by the European Parliament in 2006, the members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) have been discussing the new legislation. In October MEPs conclude their first round of deliberations with a plenary vote.
The outcomes of the vote are only partly positive from a women’s standpoint, because the EP failed to adopt mandatory reduction targets for the use of pesticides in the Union.
In the coming months EU member states will be discussing their position on the new EU pesticides legislation proposals. A first draft opinion by EU member states is expected to be presented by mid 2008.
- WECF supports PAN Europe demands for the new EU pesticides legislation
- Letter of WECF members and partners to the EP’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) expressing their demands for the first reading plenary vote, October 2007
Toxic chemicals and children’s health
Children clearly bear the highest burden of disease and contamination when it comes to hazardous chemicals because they are far more vulnerable than adults to their negative health effects. The contamination of the child with hazardous chemicals starts in the womb.
While the placenta does an excellent job of protecting the foetus from other health factors like harmful bacteria, it is no barrier to many toxic chemicals. Small, neutrally charged molecules which easily dissolve in fat simply pass through. Hazardous chemicals can attach themselves to such molecules and so pass through the placenta without any obstruction.
The chemicals a child receives from its mother, via the placenta and later through breastmilk, are in turn stored in the child’s body, where they disturb the child’s development. In addition, the vulnerability of children continues throughout their development because, compared to adults, they eat, drink and breathe more in relation to their body weight.
This means that their relative intake of hazardous chemicals from air and food is higher. Associated long-term health effects are learning disabilities, attention deficits, allergies, asthma, cancer and reproductive disorders. Many of those health effects may only become visible once the child has reached puberty or adulthood.
- Bringing the chemicals issue closer to citizens in the new EU member states was the theme of a joint workshop held by WECF and our partner the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) in April 2006, in Bratislava, Slovakia.
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14.12.2012 | WECF
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06.09.2012 | Project WECF Nederland
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24.08.2012 | Elizabeth Ruffinengo
Werkervaring opdoen bij een internationale NGO op het gebied van gezondheid en milieu?
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21.08.2012 | WECF
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20.03.2012 | WECF & HEAL
International Trade of hazardous chemicals and pesticides
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20.12.2011 | WECF
WECF zette agenda voor klankbordbijeenkomst REACH: Nieuwe chemie en de consument
Tweemaal per jaar komen overheid, industrie, bedrijfsleven en het maatschappelijk middenveld bij elkaar om te praten over de REACH chemicaliën wetgeving van de EU. Bedoeld om innovatie te stimuleren en gezondheid te verbeteren, stelt REACH allerlei voorwaarden aan het gebruik van (schadelijke) chemicaliën.
22.04.2011 | Chantal van den Bossche
Toxic Chemicals Found in Nearly All Pregnant U.S. Women
The bodies of virtually all pregnant women across the United States carry multiple toxic chemicals
01.03.2011 | Environment News Service (ENS)
Toys symposium in Paris: a new start for SAFER TOYS - WECF invited main actors EU, consumer associations, NGO’s and toy industry for debate on security toys
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22.11.2010 | WECF France Press Release
WECF Conference in Paris: Toys and hazardous chemicals - exploring solutions
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11.11.2010 | WECF news
EEB report reveals reveals big retailers are breaching the EU’s flagship regulation on chemicals
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Big retailers caught breaching EU chemicals law
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13.10.2010 | Joint Press Release
European Parliament fails to protect consumers and the environment from biocides
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22.09.2010 | JOINT PRESS RELEASE
British women's breasts getting bigger
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22.08.2010 | The Guardian
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28.10.2008 | Coalition of NGO's
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17.10.2008 | WECF Press Release
Report on WECF lunch event at European Parliament on developmental harm of children
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09.10.2008 | Chantal van den Bossche
Consumers need information about most hazardous chemicals in products
NGOs present REACH "SIN" (Substitute It Now) list of most hazardous chemicals which consumers should be able to avoid under European chemicals regulation REACH
16.09.2008 | WECF Press Release
Development of the SAICM process
Report of 3rd EU-JUSSCANNZ meeting in Paris 12 Feb 08
18.02.2008 | Sonja Haider