July 4, 2012 by Peter Simpson

The EU commission has recently published it’s long anticipated response to a formal invitation from the EU council to address the issue of chemical mixtures. The Commission was asked to:

“… assess how and whether relevant existing Community legislation adequately addresses risks from exposure to multiple chemicals from different sources and pathways, and on this basis to consider appropriate modifications, guidelines and assessment methods, and report back to the Council by early 2012 at the latest.”

The communication concludes that existing legislation does not adequately address the issue of chemical mixtures, but also that there are extensive knowledge gaps in the scientific understanding of chemical mixtures. The communication proposes establishing a working group of experts from European agencies involved in food safety (EFSA), chemicals (ECHA), medicines (ECMA) and the environment (EEA), but falls short of proposing modifications to existing legislation to address chemical mixtures. Instead technical guidance to promote a consistent approach to the assessment of priority mixtures across the different pieces of EU legislation with be published by June 2014. The guidelines will not replace existing rules and will not impose additional obligations or burdens on economic operators.

The response from the communication has been criticised by many commentators and NGOs, who claim that the response does not go far enough.