10 July 2003 18:02 [Source: ICIS news]
The way in which Reach, the European Commission’s proposed chemicals registration, evaluation and authorisation system, will work looks set for fundamental review given the overwhelming negative response to current proposals during the eight-week internet consultation period.
More than 4000 companies, organisations and individuals will have responded to the EC’s chemical policy proposals by the end of today (10 July). Most support the principle of better chemicals control but not the means by which the 1200 page draft submitted for review seeks to achieve it.
The Commission had looked set on introducing a bureaucratic nightmare in which huge numbers of chemicals would have to be registered and tested without taking into account existing data or existing science. Many detractors of the Reach system as proposed have homed in on the fact that better, risk based and scientifically sound methods could be used to isolate chemicals of concern and identify their use.
It is not yet clear whether an about-turn can be expected in Brussels but the pressure on the Commission for a fundamental review of its chemicals policy proposals has been significant from national governments to large downstream users of chemicals. Stuck somewhere in the middle have been the often heartfelt pleas of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the animal rights activists.
Few suggest that Europe doesn’t need better chemicals control but the focus is very much on a better and not on a bigger, more bureaucratic and unwieldy system that destroys European Union (EU) competitiveness and makes a mockery of industrial policy.
Chemical producers and downstream users of chemicals will be pressing the Commission hard over the coming weeks to adopt a fast track, risk based assessment system coordinated and policed by a central agency. Anything other than this runs the risk of running quickly into resource constraints in member states, the central chemicals agency and in industry itself.
The users and manufacturers of chemicals in the EU will also be pressing even harder for the adaptation of existing systems- like current Material Safety Datasheets - to reduce the administrative burden. They will also be urging greater clarification of a host of issues, not the least of which are to do with international trade and the position of downstream users of chemicals and importers of goods.
The EC is under great pressure to re-think its proposals and consider much more seriously the views not just of chemicals producers but users of chemicals throughout industry. Europe needs and deserves better chemicals control but the regulators will have to work with industry to better define and determine how that can best be achieved.
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