The leaders of five organisations, including chemical bodies and environmental charities, have publicly urged the UK government to provide clarity over a chemicals strategy it committed to producing six years ago. There is still no sign of the strategy, raising concerns that the country will be hampered in its efforts to tackle pollution and improve sustainability in industry.

In 2018, when Theresa May was prime minister, the UK government produced a 25 year environment plan in which it promised to publish a chemicals strategy. According to the government, this strategy would ‘support collaborative work on human biomonitoring, address combination effects of different chemicals and improve the way we track chemicals across supply chains’.

However, the leaders of three chemistry organisations – the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Chemical Industries Association and the Chemical Business Association – alongside the heads of the environment groups Fidra and the Wildlife and Countryside Link, have now pointed out that no strategy has been published, and ‘no updated timeline [is] in sight’. They note that despite a 46% increase in the number of civil servants working on chemical regulation since 2020, these staff are ‘overburdened with work’ – which the groups argue is in part because of the lack of a coherent chemicals strategy.

‘The chemicals strategy must introduce forward-looking regulation and business incentives in order to protect the environment and public health; without it, we hamstring the UK’s ability to tackle chemical pollution, grow a safe, circular economy, develop new skills in the next generation of employees, and become a true science superpower,’ the organisations write.

The intervention coincided with the issue being raised in parliament by shadow science minister Chi Onwurah. The minister for nature, Rebecca Pow, said that the government is ‘absolutely committed to protecting human health and the environment’ and ‘would be setting out [its] priorities for addressing risks from chemicals in due course’. Pow emphasised that any new chemicals policy would be independent of the EU.

Onwurah highlighted calls from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association for a ‘safe and sustainable supply of chemicals within a robust internationally compatible regulatory framework’. In response, Pow acknowledged the cross-border nature of supply chains and said that the government ‘will be consulting very shortly on the strategy’.