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Consumers place high hopes on EU gearing up fight against harmful chemicals

14 October 2020
by BEUC -- last modified 14 October 2020

The EU has announced concrete steps to better protect consumers against harmful chemicals - to which they are exposed night and day from multiple sources. That is the gist of the long-awaited Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, published today by the EU Commission.


The European Consumer Organisation BEUC, who has long been calling on the EU to tighten its grip on chemicals, judges the blueprint promising and urges the Commission to now follow through. The EU last updated its strategy for chemicals policy in 2001.

Today, most chemicals can be used in consumer products with little actual control. BEUC members – national consumer organisations - frequently detect chemicals of concern such as endocrine disruptors in products ranging from clothes and toys to cosmetics and food packaging. Although consumers are kept in the dark on which chemicals are in their products and how to reduce exposure, they are increasingly concerned.

An abundance of studies link our chemical exposure to the rise of chronic and severe diseases such as cancer, infertility, and allergies.3 Evidence suggests that people suffering from chronic diseases as well as autoimmune and respiratory diseases are at increased risk from COVID-19.

Monique Goyens, BEUC Director General, has commented:

"It is no secret that the current chemical rules are inadequate and leave consumers exposed to harmful chemicals from dawn to dusk. Last time the EU set a long-term vision for its chemicals policy was almost 20 years ago, so today's announcement is a generational opportunity which we urge the EU to fully seize. The plan is promising, now we want the EU to walk their talk and ensure that loopholes such as on endocrine disruptors in cosmetics, toys and food packaging are closed without delay.

"Those who have chronic diseases such as asthma are at increased risk from COVID-19. As the role chemicals play in such illnesses becomes increasingly clear and pandemics are likely to recur, it is crucial to minimise our cumulative exposures to harmful chemicals now. This strategy is a real chance to tackle the problem head-on.

"Making stricter rules is urgently needed, but they must also be applied. Today, enforcement of the chemicals rules is too often weak and patchy. Consumer groups keep finding dangerous chemicals in products where they are not supposed to be. 

"We couldn't agree more with the Commission's zero-tolerance stance on companies breaking the chemicals rules. With imported products being of particular concern, this strict approach should also be reflected in EU trade deals. To ensure the upcoming strict measures do not end up as toothless tigers, Member States must step up the controls too."

BEUC acts as the umbrella group in Brussels for its members and its main task is to represent them at European level and defend the interests of all Europe's consumers. BEUC investigates EU decisions and developments likely to affect consumers, with a special focus on five areas identified as priorities by its members: Financial Services, Food, Digital Rights, Consumer Rights & Enforcement and Sustainability.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)