12 Key Priority asks for the UK’s new Chemicals Strategy

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention has joined with 26 other UK public health and environmental NGOs in a letter to the UK Government outlining 12 Key Asks which we believe are fundamental to the UK’s new Chemicals Strategy.

The 12 Key Asks prioritise protecting human health and wildlife from hazardous chemicals which are ubiquitous in our environment. Many of these chemicals have been linked with serious health outcomes including cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, infertility and obesity. They are found in personal care or cleaning products we use or are exposed to on a daily basis in the home or workplace, and pollute our environment from production through to disposal.

The UK Government promised a green new future after the UK’s departure from the gold standard European chemicals regulation, REACH. But this is looking increasingly unlikely. The consultation on the UK’s Chemical’s Strategy is expected later this year.

The 12 Key Asks cover a range of issues that need addressing in the new strategy:

  1. Apply the precautionary principle;
  2. Phase out the most hazardous chemicals from consumer products, for all non-essential uses;
  3. A plan to address endocrine disrupting chemicals including timelines to phase them out;
  4. Phase out the use of PFAS and other very persistent chemicals;
  5. Speed up regulation of harmful chemicals and avoid regrettable substitution by adopting a grouping approach;
  6. Address the combined exposure to chemicals – the ‘cocktail effect’;
  7. Maintain and expand on workers’ health and safety;
  8. Ensure a clean circular economy with products that are safe by design;
  9. Develop an effective monitoring and alert system;
  10. Stop the continued accumulation of legacy chemicals in the environment;
  11. Remain aligned with the world-leading chemical regulation EU REACH;
  12. Ensure more transparency and use of all relevant science for assessing health risks.

The Alliance is particularly concerned about exposure to hazardous chemicals linked to cancer given the rise in cancer rates from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2 adults and by 15% in children. And existing regulations on workplace exposure have done little to stem the rise of occupational cancer and disease.

Leading scientists working on chemical risk assessment and environmental health, also wrote to the Government to express serious concerns the lack of access to the EU’s chemicals database. The letter called on the government to restore access as a keystone in developing UK chemicals policy. All current and up to date information is required to make a judgement on the safety of a chemical so it can be used in a product and in the workplace.

We call on the UK Government to support the initiative making health and safety a fundamental human right. While also extending workplace legislation on carcinogens and mutagens to include reprotoxic substances protecting the most vulnerable, the embryo and the foetus, and so protecting all. The government is now in a position to lead the way in controlling hazardous chemicals and show they really do care about the health of the UK’s citizens, workers, wildlife and the environment.

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