EU chemicals strategy to address pesticide chemical cocktails

The strategy is intended as a first step towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment, as announced in the European Green Deal.  [EPA]

The EU chemicals strategy adopted on Wednesday (14 October) aims to address the cumulative and combined effects of chemicals, including pesticides, stressing a need to accelerate work on methodologies that ensure existing provisions can be fully implemented.

The strategy is intended as a first step towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment, as announced in the European Green Deal

Europe aims for 'zero pollution' in upcoming chemicals strategy

The European Commission will publish a strategy on Wednesday (14 October) on zero pollution in the chemicals industry, but any white paper will have to walk the same, precarious tightrope as its predecessors.

It highlights that while significant progress has been made in recent years to close knowledge gaps on the impact of the combined effect of chemicals, more work remains to be done.

“Human biomonitoring studies in the EU point to a growing number of different hazardous chemicals in human blood and body tissue, including certain pesticides and biocides,” the strategy reads, stating that combined prenatal exposure to several chemicals has led to reduced foetal growth and lower birth rates.

Asked by EURACTIV about the extent to which pesticides feature in the strategy, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius confirmed that the strategy addresses pesticides “in the sense that they are chemicals”, adding that they will “need to be produced and used more sustainably, as this is the overall objective of the strategy.”

He also said that while European legislation already requires regulators to address the cumulative and synergistic effects of pesticides and biocides in safety assessments, the strategy calls for further action in this area.

This requirement is due to the fact that several pesticides may be used simultaneously in agricultural fields and also because multiple pesticide residues can be found on food samples.

For example, the annual report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) earlier this year found that one-third of the food consumed in Europe contains residues of two or more pesticides.

EFSA report offers snapshot into pesticide residues on food

EFSA published its annual report on pesticide residues found in food in the European Union on Thursday (2 April) which found that the food commodities analysed were “unlikely to pose concern for consumer health.”

Work on a targeted methodology to address the combined cocktail effects of pesticides is currently underway.

However, while the strategy highlights that progress has been made in this area, it states that “work must be accelerated to ensure that existing provisions can be fully implemented”. 

It adds that, although it is currently “not realistic nor economically feasible” to specifically assess and regulate an almost infinite number of possible combinations of chemicals, scientific consensus is emerging that the effect of chemical mixtures “needs to be taken into account and integrated more generally into chemical risk assessments”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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