One substance - one assessment

MHW – 12/2023

Shortly before the end of the year, the European Commission (EC) announced a package of measures involving three legislative proposals aimed at streamlining the authorisation procedures for chemicals used in the EU. The aim is to introduce a "one substance - one assessment" concept for the chemicals' policy. This means that each chemical will only be assessed once. Knowledge of chemicals and the early recognition of new associated risks will also be improved and strengthened.

The EC's efforts - which are part of the broader EU's chemicals strategy for sustainability - are designed to ensure that European citizens and the environment are protected more quickly from hazardous chemicals, including any emerging chemical risks. German Social Insurance issued a comprehensive statement about the various aspects and regulations included in the EU's Chemicals Strategy back in October of last year.

More efficient cooperation is needed between EU agencies

The proposals that have been presented should ensure that cooperation between the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is increased in future. They should also ensure that consistent and transparent safety assessments are made for chemicals used in medical products, toys, food, pesticides and biocides, as well as making scientific and technical work more efficient overall.

Collecting and using data

The EC is also proposing to set up a common data platform. A "one-stop shop" will provide access to the collected data held in the platform relating to chemicals held by the EC and EU agencies. This data will cover the environmental sustainability of chemical substances, physicochemical properties or data about hazards.

Bio-monitoring data generated systematically within the EU will also be collected in order to measure human exposure to toxic substances. The EC would also like to introduce an option that will enable ECHA to generate new data. This would help policy-makers to better assess the extent of human exposure to chemicals. Finally, a monitoring framework that will enable chemical risks to be recognised at an early stage should also be set up. Adopting these measures could prevent chemical risks such as PFAS - also known as "eternity chemicals" - from spreading more quickly.

What's next?

The EC's proposals will be discussed in the European Parliament and the Council as part of the ordinary legislative procedure. Stakeholders have already been given the opportunity to comment, at least, on the proposal for establishing a common data platform as well as increasing cooperation between the four EU agencies. Initial assessments should be submitted to the EC by 11 February 2024.