29 March 2007 14:38 [Source: ICIS news]
By Joe Kamalick?xml:namespace>
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS news)--The EU has long held that its new programme for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) will benefit the environment and human health, and EU ministers now proclaim that Reach will be good for the global chemicals business as well.
In addressing the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association conference this week, European Parliament Member Alexander Graf Lambsdorff went on the offensive for Reach, proposing that the massive new European chemicals control system will in fact spur research and development (R&D) and build brand value.
“Many European companies will apply Reach on a global level, not just in ?xml:namespace>
“There are good arguments for that approach, I believe,” he added, “because compliance with Reach may be seen as an investment in their trademarks.”
Despite the many complaints raised by industry in Europe and the
“Love it or loathe it, Reach will be the yardstick against which the level of your companies’ commitment to environmental standards will be measured,” he said.
Successful registration of a chemical product under Reach may become the global benchmark for environmental compliance, Lambsdorff said, not only in
He said government representatives from
Reach ultimately may attain a level of global acceptance, he said, such that “non-compliance with Reach in some markets, although perfectly legal, may therefore contain a significant risk at a later stage”.
He cited the example of sportswear giant Nike, whose manufacturing facilities in some Southeast Asian countries came under fire some years ago for the treatment of their workers.
Lambsdorff noted that even though Nike had fulfilled all the local legal requirements for worker environment and treatment in the affected countries, the company’s brand suffered because Nike was seen to be not living up to an accepted international standard.
Similarly, while many in the
He pointed out that under the varying multi-national chemical regulatory programmes in play in the EU in the last few decades, the environmental testing of chemicals was slow, cumbersome and resource-intensive.
“For example, since 1993, although 140 high-volume substances were singled out for risk assessment, only 39 substances have ever completed the process,” Lambsdorff said.
“It has been argued that the system discouraged the introduction of new and possibly safer substances, thus providing less of an incentive for innovation,” he added.
That will not be the case under Reach.
To be approved for continued use in the EU or for first-time introduction, hazardous chemicals registered under Reach must specify if feasible alternatives exist for specific uses.
“If there are no feasible alternatives, the applicant has to present research and development activities to document future efforts to find suitable alternatives,” he noted.
Even if a no-alternative chemical substance is approved under Reach, “the period for which authorisation is granted and its review are determined by available information on alternatives and the updating of the substitution plan or of the R&D plan”, Lambsdorff explained.
This, he said, will serve to stimulate rather than discourage innovation and new product development.
This means, said Lambsdorff, “that you will have to rethink the use of certain substances and that safer alternatives must be used if they are available, and it means that where no such safer alternatives exist, you must demonstrate R&D activities to find them”.
Still, even Lambsdorff conceded that the implementation of Reach that begins in June this year might not go all that smoothly.
The impact of Reach on downstream users of chemicals, he said, “is expected to be especially challenging”.
Those users, he noted, “are required to prepare chemical safety reports, regardless of whether the chemical is registered, and are required to register chemicals - and possibly obtain authorisation - if their uses are not addressed by the manufacturer’s or importer’s registration”.
“The implications of this, given the thousands of chemicals covered by Reach and the thousands of uses by downstream users of these chemicals, are nothing short of staggering,” he said.
“This may well lead to the newly created European Chemical Agency [ECA] being overwhelmed with applications to the point where it can’t do its work properly,” Lambsdorff added.
The EU, he said, “was very ambitious in making demands of industry without taking into account whether there are enough toxicity experts and analysts in the marketplace to conduct the testing”.
Lambsdorff said that if the
Presumably, that would delay innovation and new product development as well.
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