Toxic chemicals to pollute Europeans for another generation

Press release - January 31, 2012
A review of chemical laws announced today will allow continuing toxic contamination of European lakes and rivers linked to serious human illnesses.The European Commission has dodged its responsibilities for over a decade and is allowing some of the most dangerous chemicals to continue polluting for a generation, said Greenpeace.

A Greenpeace campaigner taking water samples from an industrial discharge pipe in 2011.

Today’s European Commission proposal to amend existing water legislation [1] makes progress on the monitoring of harmful chemicals and for the first time targets pharmaceutical ingredients, such as those used in contraceptives.

But the Commission fails to set out clear timetables to phase out the most dangerous chemicals, despite explicit legal requirements agreed since 2000 [2]. It is adding only 15 new chemicals from a list of 2,000 potentially dangerous substances that should be monitored and reduced. But the Commission wants to allow the most dangerous of these chemicals to continue polluting waterways for 20 years.

Greenpeace EU chemicals policy director Kevin Stairs said: “It’s been 12 years since lawmakers agreed to phase out the most dangerous chemicals from our water - chemicals linked to serious human illnesses and toxic contamination of rivers and lakes. Since then, the Commission has systematically dodged its responsibility to set concrete plans to rid our water of these known poisons and would instead allow them to contaminate yet another generation.”

The EU proposal will now be debated by the European Parliament and EU governments. The revision process is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Last year, Nike, Puma, Adidas and other global sportswear brands agreed to phase out toxic chemicals from their supply chain by 2020, the direct result of a successful Greenpeace campaign [3]. The companies agreed to put in place action plans and a timetable to phase out chemicals that end up in water.


Notes to editors
Water Framework Directive and Environmental Quality Standards Directive.
[2] Water Framework Directive. Article 16, paragraph 6 reads: “The commission shall submit proposals of controls for…the cessation or phasing out of discharges…of the substances…including an appropriate timetable for doing so.”
[3] Dirty Laundry report:

Kevin Stairs
– Greenpeace EU chemicals policy director: +32 (0)476 961376,
Jack Hunter – Greenpeace EU communications officer: +32 (0)476 988584,

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