Good reasons why the precautionary principle needs to be upheld.
New rules on chemicals to be debated by the EU this week would allow most polymers to be used without further checks, according to a group of scientists.
Only about 6% out of about 200,000 polymers would require extensive safety checks under proposals being discussed as part of Europe’s Reach chemicals regulations.
The European Environmental Bureau, an NGO, says exceptions to the safety checks include polystyrenes, which have been linked to lung inflammation in rats; polyacrylamides used in the treatment of wastewater, adhesives and food packaging, which can degrade to the monomer acrylamide, a neurotoxin; polyesters used in textiles, which are sources of microplastics; and polyolefins, also a source of microplastics.
Bethanie Carney Almroth, an associate professor of ecotoxicology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and a signatory to the letter, said: “The main goal of the [EU] process should be to ensure a high level or protection of people and environmental health. But our main concern is regarding the lack of data and lack of transparency. There is not enough data to ensure the safety of thousands of polymers in production, even
if toxicity has not been demonstrated yet.”
She said regulators should abide by the precautionary principle, by which new substances should not be assumed to be harmless, but the onus should be on the producers to demonstrate that they are safe.
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