02 October 2002 17:23 [Source: ICIS news]
The European Commission (EC) is expected to submit its draft chemicals control legislation proposals in the next few weeks. Its chemicals White Paper timetable has slipped but that is hardly surprising given the difficulties it had earlier this year in getting detailed input from interested parties. The wave of protest from industry has uncovered a deep well of concern about future European chemical industry competitiveness.
Europe wants to better control hazardous substances but appears unable to envisage mechanisms which prioritise particular chemicals or groups of chemicals or focus on those with the potential to cause the most harm. So much of the argument has to do with hazards and the perceptions of risk.
The joint statement from the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) and UK trade unions earlier this week, highlighted that fact. The industry and unions made it clear that they believe resources and attention should be given to substances which are placed on the market and where there is the potential for exposure to consumers and the environment.
That group consists of about 30 000 substances and should be the focus of new legislation. There are about 70 000 other substances, including intermediates to which consumers and the environment are hardly ever exposed. These could be set aside and covered using a simple method for gathering limited information.
The hazard data gathering system proposed in the White Paper is probably unworkable. It has the potential to create a huge headache for all involved while providing little real benefit. Intermediates particularly are only used in the chemical industry as building blocks to make other chemicals. They are not intended to come into contact with people outside manufacturing plants or the wider environment and worker exposure is already tightly controlled. The EU does not need to duplicate existing legislation but it does need to produce a workable set of regulation applicable across member states.
The UK unions and the CIA suggest that a manufacturer or importer would make an announcement of each intermediate which would be set aside from the full legislative process. The company would have to name the substances it was derogating through the announcement, including the CAS number, tonnage production band and number of customers where appropriate, they say.
This announcement would be used to produce a list of intermediates which would be open for public inspection and would be open to challenge at any stage. There would be a mechanism to bring a substance back into the full legislative process if it was found not to be an intermediate.The joint statement draws together the views of the UK industry body and five trade unions, groups which have become increasingly concerned about the potential impact on the sector of an unnecessarily widespread registration and testing regime. The statement demonstrates common belief in the need for practical and proportionate legislation. The industry and its workers deserve a practical and transparent system.
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