August 29, 2011
It's been five years since REACH* was adopted. Now, five years later, the European Commission (EC) is preparing to review the legislation.
The review is expected to be significant but not overwhelming. The EC-led review will be based on "lessons learned" from the implementation of REACH, focusing on the costs and administrative burden and other "impacts on innovation."
The review will include:
- Test method costs and spends: an audit of the amount and distribution of funding made available by the EC for the development and evaluation of alternative test methods
- REACH scope: whether to amend REACH scope to avoid overlaps with other EU legislation
- ECHA: a review of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
- Lower tonnage substances: a review of registration requirements for lower tonnage substances
"So, how's my driving?"
Originally, REACH sought to test, analyze, categorize and track ~100,000 chemical substances. But since 2006, only a small number of chemicals have actually been reviewed, starting with a list of 47 Substances of Very High Concern (click here for full SVHC list), which are suspected of causing cancer or disturbing the human reproductive system.
"But there are a lot more substances out there," said Jamie Page from the Cancer Prevention and Education Society, as reported by Euractiv.
Page is calling for the screening process to be accelerated. "Obviously, there are a lot of chemicals on the market – people estimate between 80,000 and 100,000 – so it is like a few down, a lot to go."
ChemSec, an environmental lobby group, has recently accused the EU of delaying action on "endocrine-disrupting" chemicals such as phthalates, calling on regulators to speed up work. ChemSec wants 378 substances included in the SVHC list.
"There are a lot of controversial products," Page concurred, citing Bisphenol A, a compound which has recently been banned in plastic baby bottles but which some scientists believe could be harmful in other guises, such as coatings for food cans.
Activist lawyers ClientEarth and chemicals campaigners ChemSec recently said they had sued ECHA for refusing to disclose the names of facilities producing 356 potentially dangerous chemicals. ECHA told Reuters in May it had decided to publish company names ONLY in the case of firms that are suppliers of hazardous substances, but that those entities and stakeholders could request confidentiality.
For producers of non-hazardous chemicals, the disclosure would be voluntary.
* REACH is the European regulation for the safe use of chemicals. REACH deals with the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemical substances. Adopted in 2006, it entered into force on June 1, 2007. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), based in Helsinki, Finland, acts as overseer of the REACH system.
REACH strives to do two things: 1) catalogue all ~100,000 chemicals in use today, and 2) set restrictions on uses of toxic chemicals
ECHA guidance: http://guidance.echa.europa.eu/index_en.htm