Strategy for a non-toxic environment

On 26 March 2014, the Riksdag adopted a strategy for how to achieve the environmental quality objective ‘A Non-toxic Environment’, which is based on the bill ‘Towards a toxin-free everyday environment – a platform for chemicals policy’ (Govt Bill 2013/14:39). A non-toxic environment is a prerequisite for people’s health. It is especially important to protect children and young people, since they are particularly susceptible to risks associated with toxins in the everyday environment.

The Government wants to reduce risks associated with chemicals

The strategy and platform for chemicals policy consist of the eight interim targets on hazardous substances previously adopted by the Government, the measures necessary to achieve the interim targets and other measures needed to achieve the environmental quality objective ‘A Non-toxic Environment’ or the generational goal. This includes measures to reduce the chemical risks to children’s health, applying and reinforcing existing chemicals regulations, detoxifying ecocycles and reducing the risks of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

The Government’s action plan for a non-toxic everyday environment 2011–2014 is an important part of the strategy to achieve the environmental quality objective ‘A Non-toxic Environment’. Efforts focus on measures to protect children’s and young people’s health. The action plan initiative is being extended until 2020. In the new mandate, the Government has placed greater focus on developing national bans when EU legislation is insufficient. Measures at global level remain a high priority and strategic national measures are an important complement to work at EU level.

Strengthening existing chemicals legislation 

The focus of the strategy is on applying and strengthening existing chemicals legislation in the EU with the aim of improving protection for human health and the environment. Application of the substitution principle should be strengthened and endocrine disruptors regulated. Groups of substances with similar properties, structures or areas of use should be evaluated and examined together. To begin this work the Government proposes that an action plan for the group consisting of perfluorinated substances be drawn up at EU level. New EU regulations must be developed, for example concerning regulating hazardous substances in textiles – an area which currently lacks such regulations.

The pace of phasing out particularly hazardous substances must be increased and the risk of exposure to other hazardous substances reduced. The Government’s proposals include drawing up a cadmium strategy at EU level and prioritising restriction proposals for mercury in dental amalgam.

Prioritised product groups highlighted

It is important to continuously work to reduce human – and particularly children’s – exposure to hazardous substances in products. The Government has therefore highlighted certain product groups that should be prioritised: construction products and fixtures, electrical and electronic products, clothes and shoes, and toys and other products intended for children. Particular attention should be given to measures against exposure to hazardous substances via food and drinking water, as well as cosmetic products.

Information about hazardous substances in products must be improved to enable safe handling and informed choices by consumers. Sweden will work for more stringent information requirements for low volume substances in the REACH Regulation. Priority will be given to work to develop assessment criteria and test methods for nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors and combination effects of chemicals, as well as to work on test methods and assessment criteria that take account of children’s special sensitivity. Policy instruments must be developed; for example, financial policy instruments in the form of a chemicals tax need to be considered.

The risks involved with pharmaceuticals in the environment must be reduced. EU regulations on medicinal products for human or veterinary use should therefore be refined so that they take greater account of environmental aspects. To reduce emissions of both pharmaceutical residues and other chemicals into the environment, it is also important to develop and test new sewage treatment technologies.