EU Expected to Weaken REACH Regulations for Hazardous Chemicals Amid Industry Influence

Leaked documents obtained by The Guardian newspaper suggest that the European Commission's original intention to ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as 'forever' chemicals, as part of the REACH regulations is now unlikely to proceed. The leaked documents reveal that following intense lobbying from the industry, there has been a change of stance, and only a minimal 1% of products containing hazardous substances might be limited.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has parallel plans to prohibit the use of up to 12,000 substances in products available for sale. The progress of both committees, responsible for evaluating the environmental and societal grounds for such bans, remains uncertain. Companies have been solicited for individual input during the consultation phase, where they are required to present cases where alternatives to PFAS substances are unavailable. The ECHA consultation operates independently of the proposed REACH alterations, with its recommendations anticipated to reach the European Commission around 2025. The interaction between the potential REACH modifications and the ECHA proposals remains unclear.

Reports indicate that a substantial number of documents have already been submitted to ECHA on this matter. In the meantime, leaked information concerning the impact of the REACH framework on PFAS suggests three potential options. These include limiting 1%, 10%, or 50% of products currently containing hazardous chemicals in the market. The leaked impact study is part of the revision process for the EU's Reach regulation, which encompasses chemical laws, and is slated for release by year end. The study estimates that the healthcare cost savings arising from chemical bans would significantly outweigh the costs incurred by the industry, by a factor of 10. The projected savings from reduced expenditures on treating conditions like cancer and obesity, could range between €11 billion and €31 billion annually, while businesses' adjustment expenses might fall within the €0.9 billion to €2.7 billion range per year.

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