INSIGHT: US ‘Champ’ plan seen as global standard

27 March 2008 17:57  [Source: ICIS news]

US touts its chemicals control plan as ChampBy Joe Kamalick


WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US chemical industry officials said this week that amid growing global opposition to the EU’s Reach plan, the new US-led chemical assessment and management programme (Champ) could take root as a global standard.


Mike Walls, managing director at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), noted that while Reach does not complete registration of its targeted chemicals until 2018, the Champ approach is set for completion by 2012.


Champ resulted from the agreement reached between the US, Canada and Mexico at the three nation summit meeting at Montebello, Quebec, in August.


Also known as the Montebello Agreement, Champ is a risk-based approach to health, safety and environmental management of chemicals. Under terms of the agreement, by 2012 the US is to complete risk characterisations on more than 9,000 chemicals produced in quantities of 25,000 pounds (11.3 tonnes) or more, so-called moderate volume chemicals.


The programme will incorporate data from Canada’s Chemical Management Plan, the nine-year-old US High Production Volume (HPV) voluntary testing mechanism and an upcoming reset of the chemicals inventory under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)


The HPV programme has established toxicity profiles on some 2,800 compounds that are manufactured or imported in quantities of 1m pounds (450 tonnes) or more annually.


Since TSCA came into force in 1976, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has built an inventory of some 83,000 chemicals that have been or are now in commercial use in amounts greater than 25,000 lbs.  EPA administrator Stephen Johnson recently announced that his agency soon will begin a review of that huge inventory.


“We want to be sure that the TSCA inventory reflects the chemicals that are actually in production and use in this country,” Johnson told a chemicals conference last week. 


“We strongly suspect that a significant number of the chemicals in the TSCA inventory are no longer produced or used, and resetting the inventory will help us make TSCA more efficient,” he said.


The ACC’s Walls said that the number of chemicals in the TSCA inventory actually in commercial use may be only 7,000-9,000, meaning that the inventory lists as many as 75,000 substances that are no longer being produced or used.


The bottom line is that between Canada’s chemical management plan, the existing US HPV programme and EPA’s reset of the TSCA inventory, Champ will by 2012 have completed an assessment of chemical substances that are in commercial production and general use.


“Champ is a good example of how EPA can use its TSCA authority to do a broad review of chemicals in commerce and do a faster review than is contemplated in Reach,” Walls said.


Bill Allmond, director of government relations at the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), said EPA’s voluntary approach with Champ will produce results much faster than Reach.


“When EPA first started to talk about this with industry, they acknowledged that they did not have the wherewithal to make this a regulation," Allmond said . "If it were proposed as a regulation, EPA said they were not confident that it could be achieved by the 2012 time frame because of the time-consuming rule-making process, funding, staffing resources.”


With Champ set to an assessment target date of 2012, Walls holds that this North American initiative will “provide the mechanism and processes that governments around the world can use to better understand what chemicals are in commerce and have access to risk-related information that will enable them to make some basic decisions about further regulatory steps”.


In contrast, he said, “there are a number of governments outside the EU that have expressed strong reservations about the burdens of Reach, its potential impact on trade and competitiveness”.


Some 40 member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have already voiced concerns about Reach within that body.


The WTO’s technical barriers committee recently reported that Argentina has joined what the committee termed “a lengthening list of countries raising the issue” of Reach impediments.


“Among those concerns are uncertainty about how the regulation works; its complexity and use of ambiguous terms; the possibility that the regulation will not be applied uniformly in all EU member states; the numerous bureaucratic steps required; the costs that have to be borne by exporters, producers and users even if they are not in the EU because of the onus shifted to industry; the requirement that only registered products can be sold," said the committee's report. "In particular, the regulation causes problems for small and medium-sized industries, Argentina said.”


“Brazil, the US, Rep. of Korea, Australia, Japan, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Chile, China, Mexico and Thailand agreed,” the WTO panel said, adding that challenges to Reach also have been made by member nations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.


“Reach is being touted as the new gold standard for international chemicals management and control, but there is a healthy and growing scepticism about Reach,” Walls said.


Given the long timeline for Reach implementation, Walls said, “that is a flimsy basis to say that the EU programme is the new gold standard for chemicals regulation”.


EPA head Johnson said he also is confident that Champ will trump Reach as a global standard.


“We believe that Champ is a more focused, productive and workable solution than Reach,” he told industry executives recently, announcing EPA plans to meet with chemical industry stakeholders to advance implementation of the new plan.


“We are encouraging other nations to cooperate with us in implementing Champ,” Johnson said.  “We must capture opportunities to work with our international partners” toward international adoption of Champ, he added.

By: Joe Kamalick
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