Assessing the human health and environmental safety of polymers

Terms of Reference

  • Considering existing risk assessment approaches (e.g. food safety regulation, EU Technical Guidance Document/REACH Guidance, international polymer assessment frameworks), develop a conceptual framework for polymer risk assessment which maps polymer types/ groups and their life cycles and associated protection goals (human health and environment).
  • Based on industry knowledge about polymers, their composition and uses, and based on existing experience, e.g. from the risk assessment of food contact materials, the concept of ‘polymers of low concern’ [1] (PLC) will be evaluated as an approach for prioritising polymers with regard to human health and environmental safety.
  • Identify where concepts/approaches are available (e.g. low MW molecules in FCM) and outline the knowledge / data gaps which need to be closed to make the developed conceptual framework approach applicable.
  • Clarify to which extent chemical risk assessment addresses the risks related to particulate plastic materials.

[1] Polymers of Low Concern are polymers that are deemed to have insignificant environmental and human health impacts and thus have either reduced regulatory requirements or are exempt. The PLC concept has been implemented by several national regulations on polymers.



The objective of the Task Force is to develop a conceptual framework for human health and environmental safety assessment of polymers as resource for industry to achieve a common level of understanding, to establish a basis for a discussion with regulators and policy makers, and, finally, to harmonise polymer risk assessment across industry. To that end, the elements used in existing approaches for polymer risk assessment will be incorporated into the framework and the complexity of polymer compositions and uses will be taken into account.


Timeline and deliverables

The Task Force held their kick-off meeting in April 2018, and aims to complete their work by end 2020.

The following deliverables are being prepared by the Task Force:

Note: This Conceptual Framework reflects current experience and knowledge and shall be adapted, amended and refined as new evidence on polymer risk assessment becomes available (including from the preparation of TRs No. 133-2 and 133-3)

It is anticipated that the outcome of this Task Force will be used as a basis for a workshop with stakeholders (e.g. ECHA, National Regulators, Industry Trade Associations etc.).