ICCM2 meeting heralds new era for chemical regulation

Self-regulation moves closer

15 May 2009 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Plans for the next phase of an industry-run worldwide system for reporting and assessing chemical safety data have been finalized

The UN-sponsored International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2) , which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, between 11-15 May, is allowing governments to consider a wide range of issues relating to chemical regulation.

The chemical industry, for its part, met on May 14 to put in place the next phase of its move toward self-governance, the Global Product Strategy (GPS) - a system for risk assessment of chemical manufacture and use.

Wider data sharing about chemical safety will lay the groundwork for the implementation of the GPS by the chemical industry, explained European industry group Cefic's director general Alain Perroy to ICIS in a preconference interview.

Perroy expected the industry to agree more details for a system to collect, share with the public and analyze data on chemical safety, which will then be used to set up the GPS.

The industry can help avoid heavy-handed regulation by showing it takes chemical safety seriously, said Perroy, who is also secretary of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA).

"We believe in a good combination of regulation and industry initiatives. So I expect that by showing the industry is doing the right job, [it] is taking responsibility to ensure safe production and use of chemicals, [so] that regulation can be developed that doesn't create unnecessary bureaucracy or burden on the industry," he added.

After GPS goes live, companies will be left to organize the collection and sharing of data themselves, Perroy said.

GPS'S EXPECTED ELEMENTS

Define a "base set of information" for chemicals in commerce;

Share relevant safety information for between companies;

Promote a process for evaluating risk and risk management;

Extend guidance for safety assessment on a global scale;

Help define safe-use conditions for chemicals and provide guidance to companies;

And enhance outreach and dialogue with customers, the public and other stakeholders.

OVERLAPPING REACH

In Europe, companies will be able to reuse data that is currently being generated for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (Reach) regulation.

If a substance is found to be dangerous or harmful, it will be up to individual companies to decide how to restrict manufacture or find safer ways for their use, Perroy added.

"It is not up to the ICCA or trade associations. We, in the industry, believe that the safe manufacture of chemicals can only result from a combination of good regulations, which are workable and consistent across the world, and industry initiatives," he said.

The ICCM2 meeting allows governments to assess progress on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The UN-sponsored SAICM meeting aims to build on frameworks already established for the safe production and use of chemicals by 2020.

The GPS framework was agreed by the ICCA alongside ICCM1 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2006.

"At the Dubai meeting, and since then, our industry working parties have developed fully fledged guidance for gathering of a minimum information set that allows a proper risk assessment of chemicals, plus the organizing of the sharing of that information across individual companies," said Perroy.

An important element of GPS is communication with the public. "We will also communicate to the public what we have learned from that exchange of information and evaluation of the risk assessment and management measures," he added.

A MAZE OF ACRONYMS

What is SAICM?
The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is the UN/World Health Organization's framework to promote chemical safety. Its overall objective is to achieve sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. It was adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

ICCM and ICCM2?
The first session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM1) was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2006. It finalized and adopted SAICM. ICCM2, held last week in Geneva, Switzerland, undertook the first periodic review of SAICM's implementation.

And ICCA?
It is the International Council of Chemical Associations, but not every country is represented. Exceptions include India and China.

What is the GPS?
The Global Product Strategy is the industry's contribution to the SAICM objective to achieve sound management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle. At ICCM, the ICCA introduced the Responsible Care Global Charter and GPS to enhance best practices within the industry and throughout the product chain. Together, these two initiatives represent the chemical industry's contribution to the UN-led SAICM.


By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214



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