MEPs block EU Commission proposal that would allow toxic lead in recycled PVC
3 min read

MEPs block EU Commission proposal that would allow toxic lead in recycled PVC

Members of the European Parliament today objected to a European Commission proposal to allow lead-contaminated recycled PVC to be sold in the EU [1]. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), ClientEarth and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) have applauded MEPs for using their power of scrutiny in order to ask the European Commission to walk the talk and keep toxics out of the circular economy, a promise outlined in the European Green Deal.

Lead is a well-known toxic metal. There is no safe level of exposure and it can lead to permanent adverse health effects. It is listed as a substance of very high concern under REACH because it may damage several organs or even cause cancer [2]. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriages, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight [3].

Natacha Cingotti, senior policy officer for health and chemicals at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said: “We congratulate MEPs for using their powers to urge the European Commission to walk the talk on the EU Green Deal and for clearly stating that the circular economy must promote non-toxic material loops. When going back to the drawing table, the EU Commission must make a proposal that is in line with its own commitments towards protecting our health and environment.”

Tatiana Santos, chemicals policy manager at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said: “Even the Romans understood that lead is poisonous. Yet today, the Commission is happy to let hundreds of thousands of tonnes of polluted PVC be recycled into new consumer products. This threatens to unnecessarily expose generations of Europeans and the environment. We need to remove known toxic chemicals from our homes and environment, not add more. The circular economy cannot become a dumping ground for contaminants. Fortunately, the European Parliament stood up for that principle today.”

The European Parliament environment committee already objected to the Commission’s proposal in January, stating that “recycling should not justify the continued use of hazardous substances, as prevention takes priority over recycling” [4].

Citizens across Europe contacted their elected representatives ahead of today’s plenary session urging them to vote against the Commission’s proposal, using an online platform launched by WeMove.EU and supported by HEAL and the EEB [5]. Civil society groups also wrote to Members of EU Parliament with a call to action to halt the proposal, highlighting its potential threats to health and the environment [6].


Natacha Cingotti, Senior Health and Chemicals Policy Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL),, +32 (0)2 234 36 45

Alice Bernard Lawyer (Juriste), Chemicals Project at ClientEarth,, +32 (0) 28 08 8015

Tatiana Santos, Policy Manager on Chemicals & Nanotechnology at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB),, +32 2 289 10 94


[1] 648 Members of European Parliament voted on the Resolution to block the EU Commission’s proposal, with 394 votes in favour and 241 votes against. 13 MEPs abstained.






The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is the leading not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects human health in the European Union (EU) and beyond. HEAL works to shape laws and policies that promote planetary and human health and protect those most affected by pollution, and raise awareness on the benefits of environmental action for health.

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Madrid, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is the largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe. It currently consists of over 160 member organisations in more than 35 countries (all EU Member States plus some accession and neighbouring countries), including a growing number of European networks, and representing some 30 million individual members and supporters.

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