11 August 2008 15:54 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--Chemicals producers and users have moved quickly to pre-register substances under the EU's Reach, chemicals registration, evaluation and authorisation scheme, with a clear rush of activity towards the end of July and in early August.
Companies have only been able to pre-register substances in bulk with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) from 22 July. They were prevented from doing so from the beginning of June, when individual pre-registrations commenced because of IT delays.
Companies also appear to be forward-looking and submitting registrations not simply for products in their current portfolio but also for potential products.
ECHA executive director, Geert Dancet believes the number of pre-registrations could top 200,000, particularly considering these potential new product entities.
Pre-registrations had reached 56,000 by 5 August, he told ICIS in an interview to be published in ICIS Chemical Business.
By 28 July 32,191 pre-registrations had been created by 4,627 companies signed up for the REACH-IT system, the ECHA said in its first stakeholder newsletter, with a July/August dateline. These covered 13,883 substances.
Most substances were registered using the European EINECS registry number but 3.5% of the number up to 28 July were registered by name only. The use of trade names or internal company codes should be avoided, the ECHA says, which urges the use of internationally recognised nomenclature.
The Reach process thus far seems to have has run surprisingly well with few complaints from industry. Producers and others appear to have knuckled down and simply got on with the job.
Pre-registration is a relatively simple process requiring little substance data. Registration itself is another matter and the number of consortia established to facilitate the registration and data gathering process for either individual or groups of substances is growing.
Dancet has raised the critical issue of ECHA funding. The success of the consortia indeed, could cause problems for the agency if full individual registration fees are much lower than expected. The ECHA currently is lobbying the European parliament for a raise.
Beyond the funding issue, however, the Reach scheme faces some critical tests this year as the first lists of substances of greatest concern are published. An unofficial list from NGOs (non-governmental organisations) is expected to cause most of a stir. An early official list of 16 substances has already been published.
The lists and how individual chemicals on them are then treated will test the Reach procedures – which ultimately involve the sanction of EU member sates. A solid scientific base should allow more rapid regulatory decisions – or so the official thinking goes – as Reach replaces a raft of earlier chemicals control legislation. But the proof of Reach effectiveness will ultimately be in its implementation.
“To explain Reach to people is much more complex than I ever thought," outgoing ECHA director of operations Bjorn Hansen was quoted as saying at the end of July.
"I had expected that after a year everybody in ECHA would think the same way. But it will take years, given the speed that we grow, before we have a clear collective view on the details of implementing Reach,”.
Hansen notes that the NGOs expect to see what comes out of the ECHA and he expects reactions towards the end of this year when the authorisation process starts. The challenge for the ECHA is to balance expectations whilst maintaining its scientific and technical integrity.
“I think that those chemicals which need controlling will be controlled,” the man who has been involved with Reach since the very beginning says,
“It will take 20 years to get this system comprehensively up and running and in some cases chemicals will have to leave the market. If the use of a nasty chemical is necessary, Reach gives a possibility to keep it, but industry needs to show why it is necessary to use that chemical and not another one.”
Anna Jagger contributed to this article
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