Breast Cancer UK Welcomes EAC Report on Chemicals Regulation and Brexit
Published 29 Apr 2017
We welcome the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC), new report(1) ‘The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum’.
The report is a result of its inquiry into chemicals regulation, to which Breast Cancer UK submitted written evidence.
Chemicals regulation can be complex and is not often widely discussed, but it is vital for public health and plays an important role in preventing breast cancer. We welcome the Committee’s report, and hope that it will continue its work in this area.
The report recommends that the UK should continue to align its chemicals regulation system with REACH,(2) after Brexit. Breast Cancer UK believe that staying within REACH may be the best way of making more progress to reduce our exposure to chemicals linked to breast cancer. This outcome is compatible with the UK leaving the EU, but it would have to be agreed as a part of the Brexit negotiations.
The report states that “establishing a stand-alone UK system of chemicals regulation is likely to be expensive for both the taxpayer and for industry”. However, if the Government is determined to establish a stand-alone system, then Breast Cancer UK believes that it must be based on the precautionary principle(3) and prioritise the protection of public health and the environment.
So far, the Government’s approach to Brexit and chemicals regulation has been opaque. The Government should be more transparent, so that all stakeholders are able to provide their input and expertise. It should also commit to make any changes to regulation through primary legislation, so that MPs and Peers can properly scrutinise the Government’s plans.
We wrote to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Life Opportunities, Dr Thérèse Coffey, highlighting errors in her oral evidence to the Committee and reiterating our concerns. We hope that the Government will address our points and the recommendations of the EAC, and unambiguously state its commitment to REACH, to the precautionary principle, and to transparency.
Breast Cancer UK CEO, Lynn Ladbrook, said: “The UK’s withdrawal from the EU must not be used as an opportunity to weaken chemicals regulation or to bring back chemicals that have been withdrawn from certain uses because of concerns for the environment and/or public health. If the UK chooses to adopt its own chemicals regulation system, it must be based on the precautionary principle and prioritise the protection of public health and the environment.”
You can read more in our briefing: ‘Brexit: will there be implications for breast cancer prevention?’
(1) A House of Commons Select Committee that scrutinises the UK Government's performance on environmental protection and sustainable development.
(2) Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals is the EU’s main chemicals regulation
(3) Under the precautionary principle, if there is evidence that a chemical is hazardous and poses a risk to human health or the environment, then action should be taken to restrict or ban its use. If a consensus develops that it does not pose a risk, then action can be taken to lift those restrictions.