20 October 2006 15:58 [Source: ICIS news]
By John Baker
ICIS news (LONDON)--Chemical companies will have to move fast to meet the requirements of the European Union’s proposed new chemicals policy, Reach, Judith Hackitt, head of the chemical industry’s Chemistry for Europe programme has warned.
In an interview with ICIS news, Hackitt stressed that Reach will shift the burden on to industry and away from regulators to ensure chemicals used in everyday products are safe to the public and the environment.
Reach is the most significant piece of legislation to affect the chemical industry in the past 30 years.
“Industry will have to move 400 times faster than it has done before," Hackitt suggested, to meet the requirements of registering 30,000 chemicals with all the relevant data.
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“Companies will need support and guidance and standardised tools," said Hackitt, who stressed that unlike most previous EU legislation, this time it is down to the industry to carry the burden.
“The Commission will not be setting down in detail how to meet the requirements of Reach or prescribing the means for what needs to be done," she said. In many companies, she believes, people have underestimated this shift of the burden.
Cefic has been involved in an intense lobbying effort on the Reach proposals for half a decade and developed expertise within its ranks on the legislation.
A Cefic-owned professional services company, ReachCentrum, was created earlier this year to offer this expertise to non-members as well as member firms.
The Reach regulation although not explicitly mentioning consortia – it talks in terms of substance information exchange forums (Siefs) – allows their formation to assemble the data required for the registration package and make the submission.
Acceptance of the ‘once substance, one registration’ (OSOR) proposal as a basic principle also points to the use of consortia.Hackitt expects there will be great interest from industry in the use of such data sharing groups, but admitted that there is still a lot of detail to iron out in terms of cost sharing, between say the large companies and SMEs, and handling of commercially confidential information.
Some of the detail will be hammered out next year, as Cefic takes part in a Reach Implementation Project (RIP) on data sharing.
This seven-month project, involving the legal firm of Mayer Brown Rowe and Mawe, Eurometaux and detergents body AISE, will look at the practical implications of data sharing, confidentiality and what the constraints and requirements might be on consortia formation.
“Many people have heard of Reach, but an awful lot of them have not understood what it is or what it means for their company,” Hackitt said.
A lot of detail is still missing, prior to the final document being approved by the Council of Ministers and Parliament, she added.
When companies do come to prepare their registration dossiers, there are two risks – one that they will not do enough on the risk assessments, the other that they will do more than is necessary. This is where ReachCentrum can be of assistance in advising on the level of submission and making sure submissions are made in a consistent format.
Hackitt is also concerned over the rising cost of registration – given that cost of the Chemical Agency has tripled from the original Commission estimate of €400m ($505m) – and of enforcement, which will be in the hands largely of the nominated competent body in each member state.
“This is a whole new can of worms – everything so far has been about making Reach work for companies that plan to comply – but what of those that do not – and this is even more difficult for imports into the EU,” Hackitt said.
Put another way, she suggested, how can downstream users ensure that the chemicals they are using are Reach-compliant? There is a huge requirement for communication down the supply chain and certainly a long way to go before the system is working smoothly.
For the full interview, see the 23 October issue of ICIS Chemical Business.
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