Chemicals policy in Sweden, the EU and globally
If chemicals are not handled safely, they risk damaging both human health and the environment. The Ministry of the Environment is striving to reduce the use of toxic and ecotoxic chemicals. The most hazardous ones must disappear from the market completely. Work is continuing in Sweden, the EU and globally to ensure safer chemicals management.
The Stockholm Convention
In 2003, Sweden made animportant contribution to international efforts to prohibit the production and use of chemical substances that persist in the environment, are toxic and can bioaccumulate in living organisms, known as POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants).
Sweden has a global profile when it comes to efforts to prohibit and restrict POP emissions. This group of chemicals includes some of the worst environmental toxins of our era, such as DDT, PCB and dioxins. At an intergovernmental conference in Stockholm in 2001, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was signed.
A total of 111 countries and the EU have so far signed the Convention, which was ratified by Sweden in 2002. Sweden was also one of the initiators of the Stockholm Convention.
New European chemicals legislation
New chemicals legislation is starting to take shape in the EU, the breaking of new ground which Sweden has been advocating for a considerable length of time. From Swedens point of view, the European chemicals regulatory framework, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals), represents an important and necessary development of European legislation in the chemicals field.
Under REACH, new and already existing substances are covered by the same registration, assessment and authorisation system. The substitution principle (constantly replacing hazardous substances with less hazardous ones) and the precautionary principle (used in risk assessment) are predominant features of the policy. These measures are also an integral part of Swedish chemicals policy. The EU is planning to set up a European Chemicals Agency to implement REACH. The responsibility for developing knowledge about the properties of chemical substances rests with industry. This information is to be put into a common EU register.
The Rotterdam Convention
In September 2003, the Swedish Government decided to ratify the Rotterdam Convention on the export and import of hazardous chemicals. The aim of the convention is to provide knowledge about hazardous chemicals that are prohibited or that are subject to stringent restrictions. Under the provisions of the Convention, a recipient country of certain hazardous chemicals must be informed in advance by the exporting country and also approve the import (known as the prior informed consent procedure). The labelling of substances that are prohibited and subject to stringent restrictions must fulfil the requirements laid down for domestic use. The private consumer should also receive better information on hazardous chemical substances. A bill introduced by the Swedish Government proposed that clearer warnings be given in advertisements for chemical products.
The Convention now covers 26 pesticides and five industrial chemicals and work is continuing to add further chemicals. The fact that Sweden has now ratified the Rotterdam Convention means it is legally binding. Sweden has thereby taken an important step regarding global cooperation on the handling of hazardous chemicals. This convention is particularly important for developing countries and their chances of being able to protect the environment and human health.