29 April 2009 17:19 [Source: ICIS news]
Click here to listen to an audio clip with Kemira's Liisa Rapeli-Likitalo
By Anna Jagger
LONDON (ICIS news)--The regulators of Europe’s programme for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) have underestimated how long it will take companies to register the first wave of substances, Martin Schneiter, Reach director at Huntsman Advanced Materials, warned on Wednesday.
Pre-registration of substances closed at the end of 2008 and companies now have just over a year to set up substance information and exchange forums (SIEFs) and submit substance dossiers.
“I think politicians, or the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), have underestimated the workload that needs to be done by next year,” Schneiter said. “The size of the workload is just overwhelming.”
The official deadline for submitting the dossiers is November 2010 but companies are being advised to submit them by June 2010 at the latest.
Setting up the SIEFs is a huge challenge because of the high number of companies involved. ECHA, which is responsible for running the Reach programme, says about 140,000 substances were pre-registered by 65,000 companies between 1 June and 1 December 2008.
SIEFs are formed by companies that intend to register the same substance.
A key task is the sharing of data between companies to avoid duplication of studies and unnecessary animal testing. For each SIEF, a lead registrant is selected to compile the data and submit a dossier for registration under Reach.
The process of establishing the SIEFs has been hampered by IT issues, industry officials said.
SIEFReach, an IT platform provided backed by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and designed to help communication between SIEF members, has not been functioning correctly, remarked Schneiter. However, he noted that other IT tools can be used to facilitate communication within SIEFs.
Cutbacks in companies’ travel budgets are also making communications within SIEFs more difficult.
“We can’t have face-to-face meetings,” said Liisa Rapeli-Likitalo, manager of Kemira’s Reach competence centre. “Today’s business policies don’t allow much travelling anymore,”
At the same time, some of the companies that have volunteered to facilitate the formation of the SIEFs have proved ineffective.
In many cases consultants, rather than companies actively involved in a particular substance, have become the SIEF formation facilitator (SFF) by ticking the appropriate box in the pre-registration process, said Rapeli-Likitalo.
These consultants are often seeking service contracts, and slowing down the SIEF formations, she explained.
“We need more time for this first phase of registrations," said Rapeli-Likitalo
Dave Buckland, AkzoNobel’s corporate regulatory affairs manager, is more optimistic that the system will work and that companies will meet the 2010 registration deadline.
“Reach is a piece of legislation that the industry can’t be seen to fail in,” he said. “The credibility of the chemical industry rests upon this. If you don’t get your registration, you stop production.”
But selecting the lead registrant for the SIEFs and agreeing how to share and pay for data are critical, Buckland said.
“They are very tight deadlines but there’s enough time as long as someone has come forward as a lead registrant.”
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