Read the full article by Arthur Neslen (The Guardian)

“The EU has abandoned a promise to ban all but the most vital of toxic chemicals used in everyday consumer products, leaked documents show.

Other legislation to be dropped includes a ban on the export of outlawed chemicals from Europe to the rest of the world, a ban on caged farming and a sustainable food systems framework that the European Commission once described as ‘a flagship‘ of its farm to fork strategy.

These proposals are all absent from a copy of the commission’s 2024 work programme seen by the Guardian and due to be announced on Tuesday.

The blueprint maps out which proposals the commission will bring forward in the last months before European parliament elections in June, which will be followed by the formation of a new commission team.

A wind power package will still be launched next year, as will a process to establish a 2040 climate target, and a climate adaptation package. But there was no hiding the disappointment of environmentalists.

Tatiana Santos, the head of chemicals policy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of environmental citizens’ organisations, said that by shelving the promised review of the EU’s Reach regulation that governs chemicals, ‘the European Commission has betrayed European citizens, turning a blind eye to chemical pollution and favoured toxic industry’s short-term interests over those of its citizens. It is now clear that the profits of the chemical industry are more important to this commission than the health of Europeans. The European Green Deal will be remembered as the European Toxic Deal.’

Europe has almost 23% of the world’s new cancer cases despite making up only 6% of the world’s population, in part because of ‘chronic exposure to some pharmaceuticals, pollutants and other occupational and environmental carcinogens’, according to the European Environment Agency.

In 2020, the EU released a chemicals strategy that called for ‘banning the most harmful chemicals in consumer products – allowing their use only where essential’. It also committed the EU to ‘phasing out the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the EU, unless their use is essential.’

PFAS – also known as forever chemicals – accumulate in nature and in our bodies where they can damage the endocrine, immune and reproductive systems. The substances can take thousands of years or longer to degrade, and their health costs are estimated at €52-84bn (£45-73bn) a year.

The planned ban would have taken thousands of the most hazardous products off the market but it is now unclear whether the proposals will be mothballed or buried.

An EU official declined to comment on the leaked documents but said: ‘It’s no surprise that the Reach revision doesn’t feature in the work programme. It doesn’t prevent the college [of EU commissioners] from adding it to the agenda at a later stage.’

An earlier leak of the EU’s chemicals plans reported by the Guardian in July showed the scope of the bloc’s ambition had been weakened in the face of intense industry pressure, which was backed by EU political leaders including the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

The Green MEP Bas Eickhout said: ‘It’s very clear that there’s not enough appetite with this commission to have a proper revision of the Reach regulation, so let’s make it a campaign issue in the June 2024 elections. I think a lot of citizens want legislation on chemicals and it will be a big part of the campaign debate.'”