Q&A Science & regulation

Why don’t we ban all the chemicals that can pose a health risk?

This is already the case. Chemicals on the European market are regulated. Some are banned, either in all or in clearly identified applications only.

Europe has set the strictest and most conservative regulation in the world for chemicals. This on-going process has been reinforced with the REACh regulation which provides the highest level of precaution and safety, ever achieved. The use of chemicals must stay below regulatory safety limits.


The debate about the safety of chemicals is often blurred by the confusion between what is a hazard and what is a risk. All products and phenomena, natural or synthetic, can represent a risk for human health if our exposure to it is in too large a quantity. Too much salt or too much sun can pose a risk, this is the same for many synthetic molecules, but this does not mean that we must ban all of them, especially if they are useful.


The principle of risk evaluation is to evaluate if a potential hazard can harm people in real life thus representing a risk.


It is the role of the authorities to determine if a hazard identified in scientific studies can become a risk for humans or the environment. For instance a molecule can be potentially hazardous, but represent no risk when it is trapped in a matrix, e.g. a plastic material that is incorporated in a product where it hardly gets in contact with humans or the environment. The same molecule can represent a risk in some applications and no risk in others, and therefore be authorized for some applications and restricted for others.


Therefore, not only is it unnecessary to ban all chemicals to live safer, but it could even be detrimental to safety to deprive ourselves of the benefits of the plastics made with them.


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