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DEFRA has announced that it will seek a formal voluntary agreement...
DEFRA has announced that it will seek a formal voluntary agreement

with industry to reduce the risks to the environment from

nonylphenols, octylphenols and their ethoxylates.

The Chemicals Stakeholder Forum (CSF) recommended this course of

action to the government after identifying these substances as

meeting their criteria for persistence, toxicity and bioaccumulation

and establishing that they pose significant risks to the environment.

They are also suspected endocrine disrupters.

Nonylphenols and their ethoxylates are used in the production of a

wide range of products and processes including industrial cleaning,

paints, paper, inks, and textiles. Octoylphenol and their ethoxylates

are much less widely used, but have similar properties to

nonylphenols and could potentially be used as substitutes for


The measures would lead to the end of uses of the chemicals that lead

to high levels of environmental exposure and would bring in strict

controls on remaining uses.

The Forum based its recommendation on the risk management strategy

that has already been agreed for nonylphenol and their ethoxylates by

EU Member States under existing legislation. The Forum concluded that

it would take too long for this to become law under a new EU

directive, and that industry should take action to reduce the risks

as soon as possible.

Environment minister, Michael Meacher, agreed that the current uses

of nonylphenols, and their ethoxylates give rise to unacceptable

risks to the environment and that substitution with octylphenols

would present similar risks.

'We cannot tolerate the uses of such hazardous chemicals that result

in them being released into the environment in large quantities. This

proposed voluntary agreement with industry would dramatically reduce

the risks and will also encourage innovation and prepare UK industry

for the future legislation ahead of its competitors elsewhere.

I therefore invite industry to engage with the government in

developing this formal voluntary agreement as quickly as possible.'


1. In addition to phasing out the uses of nonylphenol and octylphenol

and their ethoxylates, the CSF recommends that action should be taken

to restrict releases into the environment as a result of:


captive use;

manufacturing and formulation of preparations, including

phenol/formaldehyde resins, plastic stabilisers and emulsion

polymerisation; and

disposal of products containing these substances.

2. This is the CSF's first recommendation for a formal voluntary

agreement on specific chemicals.

3. The UK Chemicals Strategy recognised that rapid action was not

being achieved by the current EU legislation for existing chemicals.

It identified voluntary agreements as preferable to legislation

because they could achieve faster action on harmful substances.

Voluntary action was also recognised as being a less bureaucratic

approach, which gives industry the opportunity to develop innovative

plans for risk reduction andsubstitution.

4. The Chemicals Stakeholder Forum was set up under the UK Chemicals

Strategy, published in 1999. The Strategy identified the following

goals: make full information publicly available about the

environmental risks of chemicals; continue reduction of risks

presented by chemicals to the environment and human health - while

maintaining the competitiveness of industry; phase out early those

chemicals identified as representing an unacceptable risk to the


5. The Forum was established to advise the government on action to

take forward the aims of the strategy as well as general chemicals

policy. It is chaired by the Earl of Selborne and includes

representatives from industry, environmental and consumer groups,

retailers, scientists, and trade unions. The Forum has agreed the

following terms of reference:

T o advise government on managing risks to the environment and (via

the environment) to human health from chemicals entering the

environment through commercial production and use in accordance with

the 1999 government paper 'Sustainable production and use of chemicals

- a strategic approach', taking into account the views of interested

bodies and the public, and European and international chemicals

policy, and with due regard to sustainable development and the

precautionary principle.

To advise government on the development of general policy on

chemicals in the environment and, where appropriate, make

recommendations for research and monitoring.

6. Further details about the CSF, including meeting papers and agenda

can be found on the DEFRA website.

7. Details of EU proposals to control the risks from nonylphenols can

be found here.

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