The Ministry of the Environment aims to generate knowledge of the risks posed by hazardous substances and to prevent such risks from causing any significant environmental or health hazards. The environmental hazards associated with chemicals can be mitigated through legislation (and financial instruments). Legislation is influenced by national objectives, EU law and a number of international agreements which Finland has signed, and whose goal is to reduce chemical hazards.
The Ministry of the Environment is the highest authority in charge of monitoring compliance with the Chemicals Act (and the provisions issued under it). It also directs the prevention and remediation of environmental damage caused by chemicals. The ministry is also responsible for international cooperation aimed at preventing environmental damage by chemicals.
Tasks of the authorities
The following authorities participate in managing the environmental risks posed by chemicals: the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes), Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and municipal environmental protection authorities.
National Chemicals Programme
The aim of the National Chemicals Programme (2022–2035) is to create an environment where chemicals cause no harm to human health or do not weaken the good environmental status. The Programme covers the harm caused by chemicals to individual consumers, public health, employees’ health and the environment during their whole life cycle.
The Chemicals Programme sets down the key measures that the different administrative branches commit to implement.
The themes of the Chemicals Programme are
1. Protection of health and the environment from harmful chemicals
Chemicals are present in almost all materials and products. The objectives of the programme include:
- ensuring adequate information on exposure to harmful chemicals so that the risks of chemicals can be assessed and controlled.
- promoting research on the effects of combined exposure to multiple chemicals and developing risk assessment and management methods for chemicals. The Programme includes a commitment to developing a set of “environmental burden” indicators for measuring the total environmental harm caused by chemicals.
2. Safe circular economy and sustainable chemistry
The circulation of harmful chemicals in products and materials is one of the challenges faced by a circular economy. The objectives include:
- a circular economy that is safe with respect to chemicals from product design to the production and use of recycled materials. The Programme also includes a commitment to more efficient assessment of the whole life cycle of chemicals and ensuring the transfer and preservation of data on chemicals in the supply chains and products. The criteria for public procurement and procurement competence should be improved as well.
- developing business based on a circular economy and increasing innovations that aim for sustainable and safe chemistry.
3. Knowledge-based decision-making
The objectives include:
stronger interaction between science, authorities, business life and policy-making that improves the knowledge base in support of decision-making. A new National Chemicals Forum will be established to promote this.
4. EU and international cooperation to improve chemical safety
A high standard of chemical safety and, through this, environmental and health protection requires cooperation, both within Europe and globally. The objectives include:
- identifying, anticipating and prioritising the actions that are the most important for Finland and allocating resources to promote these.
- working actively to improve chemical safety outside Finland as well.
5. Communication and education promote better chemical safety
Communication on chemicals improves chemical safety and risk awareness and ensures the safe use of chemicals at all stages of their life cycle. The objectives include that
- consumers and companies have enough information on chemicals and on their safe and appropriate use.
- communication guides to introducing safer chemicals.
Eeva Nurmi, Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Environmental Protection Department, Circular Economy Telephone:0295250209
Hinni Papponen, Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Environmental Protection Department, Circular Economy Telephone:0295250384
Tuulia Toikka, Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Environmental Protection Department, Circular Economy Telephone:0295250297