Korea is first to adopt REACH-like chemical controls

23 March 2011 17:38  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS)--South Korea has launched a new chemicals control system that is closest to the European Union’s REACH programme of any country outside the EU, a top regulatory law authority said on Wednesday.

Thomas Berger, a regulatory law specialist and partner in the Washington, DC, firm of Keller & Heckman, said that “You hear a lot of talk about China adopting REACH or Japan copying REACH, but South Korea’s new system does look a lot like REACH.”

REACH is the EU’s controversial programme for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals. Many chemical industry officials outside of the EU, and especially those in the US, have worried that other nations might adopt REACH-like restrictions on the development and import of chemicals.

Speaking on the closing day of the GlobalChem regulatory conference, Berger said that South Korea’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has issued a preliminary draft of its “Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals” (AREC), and is accepting public comment on the proposed system until the last week of April.

Upon formal publication of the new system, which could be later this year, it would take effect in two years, Berger said.

He described AREC as “the Korean version of REACH” and said that its strict authorisation and restriction provisions were similar to those proposed by US Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) last year to replace the principal US programme for regulation of chemicals in commerce, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Lautenberg’s proposed bill was widely criticised by US chemical sector officials as unworkable. It did not advance in the Senate, and similar legislation was not expected to gain traction in the current Congress.

The new South Korean system would replace its existing Toxic Chemicals Control Act (TCCA), a system similar to the US TSCA.

South Korea’s AREC “would introduce many of the same concepts in REACH”, Berger said, including a requirement for risk assessment information with the registration of any existing or new chemical product.

That risk assessment would determine whether a substance should be designated a priority for authorisation, restriction or prohibition, he said.

There are few registration exclusions, he said, including those for chemicals contained within machines and chemicals contained in solid finished products that are not designed for release in normal use.

Among the concerns raised by chemical sector officials, said Berger, was the no-minimum quantity threshold for registration, compressed registration deadlines and inadequate provisions for protection of confidential business information (CBI).

The new system also gives the ministry “unbridled discretion to decide the scope of exemptions", and has uncertain or unspecified criteria for defining “substances of concern” and “priority substances”, he said.

Nor does the new South Korean programme allow the submission of registration and risk assessment data already assembled under the EU REACH, and it provides no avenue of appeal to the ministry’s restriction decisions, he added.

Cosponsored by the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), GlobalChem drew more than 400 participants. The conference concluded on Wednesday.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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