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Designing safe and sustainable products requires a new approach for chemicals

The EU chemicals strategy for sustainability aims to ensure that chemicals are ‘produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society … while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations’ (EC, 2020). Building sustainability dimensions into products’ design phase can support the delivery of these objectives. Key features of sustainable products include chemical safety, recyclability and a low environmental impact. This briefing describes approaches that are safe and sustainable by design and identifies enabling conditions, which support their uptake, and the related challenges and opportunities.

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Designing safe and sustainable products requires a new approach for chemicals

The EU chemicals strategy for sustainability aims to ensure that chemicals are ‘produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society … while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations’ (EC, 2020). Building sustainability dimensions into products’ design phase can support the delivery of these objectives. Key features of sustainable products include chemical safety, recyclability and a low environmental impact. This briefing describes approaches that are safe and sustainable by design and identifies enabling conditions, which support their uptake, and the related challenges and opportunities.

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Artificial meat and the environment

An appealing innovation with highly uncertain potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable more sustainable use of natural resources.

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Artificial meat and the environment

An appealing innovation with highly uncertain potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable more sustainable use of natural resources.

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Ozone depleting substances 2020

Man-made ozone-depleting substances destroy the protective ozone layer and the international community established the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to cut their consumption and production. To fulfil its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, the EU has adopted the more ambitious EU Ozone Regulation. This briefing contains information on ozone-depleting substances in the EU, based on aggregated data reported by companies since 2006 under the Ozone Regulation.

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Ozone-depleting substances 2020

Man-made ozone-depleting substances destroy the protective ozone layer and the international community established the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to cut their consumption and production. To fulfil its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, the EU has adopted the more ambitious EU Ozone Regulation. This briefing contains information on ozone-depleting substances in the EU, based on aggregated data reported by companies since 2006 under the Ozone Regulation.

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Emerging chemical risks in Europe — ‘PFAS’

It is currently not possible to perform in-depth environmental and health risk assessments of all chemical substances in use in Europe because of the great variety of chemicals and their diverse uses. New and legacy chemicals continue to be released into Europe’s environment, adding to the total chemical burden on Europe’s citizens and ecosystems. Early identification of emerging risks is one of the activities of the European Environment Agency (EEA). This briefing summarises the known and potential risks to human health and the environment in Europe posed by a group of very persistent chemicals, the per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

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Emerging chemical risks in Europe — ‘PFAS’

It is currently not possible to perform in-depth environmental and health risk assessments of all chemical substances in use in Europe because of the great variety of chemicals and their diverse uses. New and legacy chemicals continue to be released into Europe’s environment, adding to the total chemical burden on Europe’s citizens and ecosystems. Early identification of emerging risks is one of the activities of the European Environment Agency (EEA). This briefing summarises the known and potential risks to human health and the environment in Europe posed by a group of very persistent chemicals, the per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

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Chemicals in European waters

This report’s aim is to improve understanding of which chemicals continue to pose significant risks to the environment, especially when they are present in water. It also looks at how better knowledge and understanding can help to improve controls to minimise harm. The report gives an overview of information about pollutants used in the assessment of water quality under the Water Framework Directive, and describes some of the newer techniques available for the assessment of water quality.

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Mercury in Europe's environment

This EEA report aims to increase understanding and knowledge of global mercury pollution among both policymakers and the general public. The report provides background information and context, before setting out the current status of global and European mercury pollution and the challenges that remain in addressing this global issue.

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Chemicals for a sustainable future - Report of the EEA Scientific Committee Seminar

This report draws upon presentations and discussions that took place at a seminar held by the European Environment Agency's (EEA's) Scientific Committee on 17 May 2017.

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European water policies and human health — Combining reported environmental information

Society depends on the satisfactory and sustainable management of water. This report considers three pieces of EU water legislation targeted at particular sectors: the Bathing Water Directive, the Drinking Water Directive and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, and looks at common issues in the context of the Water Framework Directive. A review of the implementation of each of the sectoral directives is provided.

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 Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation (flyer)

Science and the precautionary principle - lessons for preventing harm

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Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation

The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The 'Late Lessons Project' illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms.

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The impacts of endocrine disrupters on wildlife, people and their environments – The Weybridge+15 (1996–2011) report

Rates of endocrine diseases and disorders, such as some reproductive and developmental harm in human populations, have changed in line with the growth of the chemical industry, leading to concerns that these factors may be linked. For example, the current status of semen quality in the few European countries where studies have been systematically conducted, is very poor: fertility in approximately 40 % of men is impaired. There is also evidence of reproductive and developmental harm linked to impairments in endocrine function in a number of wildlife species, particularly in environments that are contaminated by cocktails of chemicals that are in everyday use. Based on the human and wildlife evidence, many scientists are concerned about chemical pollutants being able to interfere with the normal functioning of hormones, so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), that could play a causative role in these diseases and disorders. If this holds true, then these 'early warnings' signal a failure in environmental protection that should be addressed.

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Hazardous substances in Europe's fresh and marine waters — An overview

Chemicals are an essential part of our daily lives and are used to produce consumer goods, to protect or restore our health and to boost food production, to name but a few examples. Some chemicals, however, are hazardous, raising concerns for the environment and human health. Hazardous substances are emitted to fresh and marine waters via a number of pathways and can have detrimental effects on aquatic biota. Humans can be exposed to hazardous substances in water through the ingestion of contaminated drinking water and the consumption of contaminated freshwater fish and seafood. A wide range of legislation now exists in Europe to address the release of hazardous substances to the environment, including water. New challenges exist, however, including the issues of chemical mixtures and emerging pollutants.

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