• UK scientists urge next Government to end chemical regulatory chaos
    Stephanie Metzger (Credit: RSC)

News & Views

UK scientists urge next Government to end chemical regulatory chaos

Jun 05 2024

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has issued a report describing the UK’s current system for chemicals regulation and management as inefficient, poor value for money and lacking long-term planning, with detrimental impacts for industry and the UK’s global standing.

The Case for a national Chemistry Agency (June 5), urges the next UK government to establish a dedicated agency rather than wait for a chemicals crisis to happen, cautioning that we need to learn lessons from the Food Standards Agency, established in the wake of the ‘mad cow disease’ BSE disaster.

As a body the proposed Agency would use the best science and evidence to assess the intrinsic properties and hazards of chemicals over their life cycle, and share that knowledge with relevant regulatory authorities and policymakers in the UK and internationally.

The report comes as evidence continues to mount of the risks posed by chemical substances if they are not well managed – from ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS to heavy metals and herbicides.

Professor Gill Reid, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Put simply, our regulatory regime for chemicals is just not good enough. We need a unified approach to chemicals regulation, just as we already benefit from a national agency to oversee food standards and a national regulator of health products and medicines.

“Under the current system, responsibility falls on a number of different under-resourced government departments and agencies leading to duplicated efforts, fragmentation and confusion.”

“With the general election only weeks away we are calling on the next government to grasp this moment to streamline chemicals regulation by establishing a dedicated national agency,” she added.

Estimating that the agency could be cost neutral, the Society also presents a framework to support the delivery of the current GB chemicals regime or work alongside a new Chemicals Agency, in the form of a national Centre for Chemicals and Risk Research and a cross-governmental chemicals regulation training and networking programme respectively.

Stephanie Metzger, Policy Advisor at the Royal Society of Chemistry, commented: “A huge challenge we face is that current chemicals regulations are a minefield for businesses. From a lack of clarity around the data requirements needed to register chemicals, to supply chain issues and barriers to market access following Brexit, our businesses are grappling with regulatory chaos.

“We urgently need a more supportive regulatory environment for businesses. Not only would this nurture existing businesses, but it would also allow emerging technologies to flourish and protect the UK’s heritage as a home of pioneering science.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry is calling on the next government to take six immediate actions:

  • Release the long-awaited Chemicals Strategy 
  • Commence negotiations for access to ECHA chemicals data
  • Provide a timeline for UK REACH reform and the likely new registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals processes
  • Immediately fund a programme of short training courses for civil servants
  • Commit to a National Chemicals Research and Risk Institute (CCRR)
  • Commit to a National Chemicals Agency

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