Merger of global chemical regulations would take decades - UNEP

20 May 2010 15:17  [Source: ICIS news]

HELSINKI (ICIS news)--Chemicals legislation used in developed countries is starting to become more harmonised but development of a global system would take decades, Kaj Madsen, a senior programme officer at the chemicals branch at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said on Thursday.

There was likely to be a convergence in legislation covering chemicals risk assessment and management in developed and emerging countries, Madsen said to delegates at the second Helsinki Chemicals Forum. However, he added that the process would take much longer for developing countries.

“For a global system, you would need everybody on board,” he said to ICIS on the sidelines of the conference. “Developing countries could take years to converge towards such a system. It could take 30, 40 or 50 years.”

Harmonising chemicals legislation in developing countries would be extremely complicated because of variations in government structures, scientific knowledge and financial support, for example, Madsen added.

Speakers at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum were asked to discuss whether Europe’s new Reach legislation could become a global model. The first step, suggested Madsen, should be for Reach to function in Europe.

“It could then go global but that would depend on individual countries,” he said.

Lena Perenius, executive director of the European Chemical Industry Council's (Cefic) product stewardship programme and member of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) chemical policy and health leadership group, agreed that a “one size fits all” strategy would not be workable in the short term.

“Globally we have different strong points,” she said. “I don’t think the Reach blueprint can just be circulated.”

In the meantime, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been in discussions with countries including the US and Canada about sharing ideas and information. The ECHA, which is located in Helsinki, is responsible for implementing Reach.

“We are very excited about the dialogue we are having with ECHA,” said Jim Jones, deputy assistant administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA has been seeking a reform of the US Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Jones said. One of the key problems with the current legislation was that it did not mandate the EPA to determine the safety of existing chemicals, he added. 

Additionally, there were also difficult legal and procedural hurdles to limit or ban chemicals, he said.

“There is wide stakeholder agreement on the need to reform TSCA,” Jones said to delegates.

The EPA has already released action plans for various chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, and would continue to release further action plans while Congress works on the TSCA reform, he added.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry visit ICIS connect

By: Anna Jagger
+44 20 8652 3214

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