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Tale ved ministeriets EU konference "Towards a Non-Toxic Future", Ringsted den 23. november 2016 (english)

 

Good morning and welcome.

I am very pleased to see so many outstanding stakeholders here today – thank you all very much for coming. 

In this conference, we have gathered experts concerning chemicals in both the environment, in foods and in consumer products. 

And that makes this event a pioneer-conference, where we work towards handling chemical risks across the traditional vertical structures. 

We need to act on facts – not feelings
Regulating chemical substances is of utmost importance. 

And it is my view that consumers should NOT have to worry about chemicals in everyday products – whether they may be in mobile phones, food-wrapping or clothing. 

But as you have just seen in the video “Good Chemistry”, we have also come to a point, where many citizens are not just AWARE of possibly harmful substances – some have come to FEAR chemical substances all in all. 

And though chemicals may seriously and adversely affect human health, we must also underline that many chemicals ARE an indispensable part of our daily lives. 

They do much good and have enabled many new product abilities which we all enjoy every day. But there is no doubt that the use of some chemical substances can be risky. 

Therefore, with this conference, I hope to further strengthen our common international effort to use the many facts we DO have to keep harmful chemicals out of our food, our environment and our consumer products.

No country can reach this goal on its own. But together, we can take great steps towards a non-toxic future for the benefit of all. 

Then and now: A development of knowledge
Like most of you here today, during my childhood I was probably exposed to several harmful chemicals. 

The facts about risks from chemicals were not yet common knowledge, and the EU regulation was still in its early stages. 

My mother could not know that hazardous substances from food containers might migrate into our food. 

And working on our family farm, my father and his colleagues were not aware of the risks connected with herbicides on the fields or chemicals in the wall-paint. 

Denmark: A frontrunner
Luckily, much has changed. Today, Denmark is known as a frontrunner when it comes to protecting both consumers and the environment against hazardous chemicals. 

As an example, Denmark has a national ban on lead in a range of products. 

And since 2010 we have had a ban on Bisphenol A, which is considered an endocrine disruptor, in all food contact materials for babies aged zero to three years. 

The effects of these bans would, however, have a greater impact if they were agreed upon by more countries.

Since foods, toys, clothing and digital hardware are constantly crossing borders, regulation must also be transboundary. 

Therefore, to consider one a frontrunner implies doing one’s utmost to convince the rest of the world – or at least the EU – to take similar steps.

So this is what Denmark is currently doing. 

In cooperation with the European Chemicals Agency, we recently submitted a restriction proposal on the use of four phthalates in all indoor articles such as flooring and furniture.

And together with eight other EU Member States, Denmark has put forward a wish to the Commission for a new EU-regulation of chemical substances in ALL cardboard and paper in contact with food. 

Furthermore, Denmark has joined the UN 2020 goals. 

This means committing ourselves to ensure that chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize adverse impacts on human health and the environment. 

Our wishes to the Commission
Our bodies do not care whether the exposure to harmful chemicals comes from our breakfast or from the synthetic leather sofa, we sit in while watching TV. 

And that is why the proposal on the four phthalates is the first proposal under REACH[5] to take the cocktail effect into consideration. 

We look forward to participating in an open and transparent process by the Commission, providing input to the development of the EU strategy towards a non-toxic environment 2050. 

Today, I would like to highlight three areas, which might be addressed by the strategy. 

First: We would like to discuss the development of horizontal measures to minimize exposure to hazardous substances. And we want to do that using an approach that addresses the cocktail effect.

Second: We have to ensure that the future EU chemicals acquis can accommodate new scientific knowledge and technological developments.

And finally, third: In our opinion, one of the most important issues to handle right now is endocrine disruptors.

The Commission's proposals on criteria for endocrine disruptors should be a first step to handle this issue. 

But I must say that we are very concerned about these specific drafts from the Commission. 

Our main concern is that the Commission has chosen a limiting solution that does NOT follow the common approach for identification of substances of high concern. 

This approach will not deliver adequate protection of human health and environment 

in fact, it may LOWER the current protection level. 

The proposal is also inconsistent with corresponding European legislation. 

And more importantly, this will make it difficult for the industry to substitute problematic chemicals across the board. 

Furthermore, it will also ignore current scientific knowledge and delay regulation. 

Therefore, I urge everyone – including the Commission – to find a solution that ensures horizontal transparency and consistency in line with the Commission’s own better regulation initiative. 

Round-off: The aim of this conference
So – we have come a long way towards anon-toxic future in the last thirty years. But we are not there yet. 

And that is why I am very pleased that all you experts here today continue to enable a further fact-based regulation. 

Your work is of great value to us all. Because we DO need a fact-based approach to chemical substances in order to make the best decisions in our regulations. We also need them to ensure that the EU legislation can accommodate new scientific knowledge in the years to come.

Our future challenge is how we can continue to use the possibilities and benefits offered by technology - without negative impacts on human health and the environment. 

And developing strategies for either foods or consumer products separately, without using gained knowledge in both areas, only slows us down. 

Therefore, I look forward to receiving the outcome of this joined pioneer conference, which will be summarized in a report. 

We will utilize your inputs when we draw up a Danish input to the EU strategy for a

non-toxic environment 2050. 

Together, I believe we can take new steps towards a non-toxic future – for all!

Opdateret 1. december 2016

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