ECHA to publish names of Reach registrants after legal ruling

11 May 2011 17:41  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The names of Reach registrants will be made public and published on the website of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) following a legal ruling by the European Commission, ECHA said on Wednesday.

Only registrants of hazardous substances can claim confidentiality to protect their commercial interests, the ECHA said, adding that those claims would require valid justification and payment of a fee.

Confidentiality was a key issue when chemical producers and users first discussed the implications of Reach with the Commission, and Reach IT systems were set up to preserve anonymity. There is concern, particularly, that it might be necessary to preserve the anonymity of legal entities registering innovative new susbtances to ensure that critical research strategies are not revealed. 

ECHA now says significant technical revision to the International Uniform Chemical Information Database and its REACH-IT platforms are needed before the additional registration information can be released online.

The Commission ruled certain information contained on substance Safety Data Sheets, including the names of registrants, should be published by ECHA.

In addition, the Reach registration number will also be included and information on whether the substance is “persistent”, “bio accumulative and toxic” or “very persistent and very bio accumulative”.

ECHA is coming under increasing pressure to release more information on chemicals registered under Reach.

In related news, ECHA said on Wednesday that it is unaware of any legal action being taken against it by environmental law organisation ClientEarth and chemicals watchdog ChemSec for refusing to release the names of companies producing potentially dangerous chemicals in the EU market.

On 9 May, non-governmental organisations ClientEarth and ChemSec released a media briefing stating they were suing ECHA in the general court of the European Union for withholding names and contact details of the registrants of 356 substances identified in ChemSec’s SIN (substitute it now) list, which comprises chemicals identified as “substances of very high concern” under Reach.

ClientEarth and ChemSec said refusal to release the list conflicts with Reach, which is designed to protect public health and promote transparency, democracy and legitimacy in EU policy-making.

“The public’s right to information on chemicals is a basic principle of the Reach Regulation,” Vito Buonsante, toxics lawyer at ClientEarth, said in a statement.

“ECHA must not be allowed to withhold information on such a critical issue, especially as it relates to chemicals found in consumer products and present in the EU in large quantities. We have exhausted all avenues to make ECHA meet its transparency obligations and are now compelled to go to court,” Buonsante added.

Jerker Ligthart, ChemSec’s SIN list project coordinator, said: “ClientEarth and ChemSec are fighting to establish a principle: that people have the right to know about dangerous chemicals to which they and their environment are exposed.”

However, ECHA said although it has received press enquiries concerning the media briefing issued by ClientEarth and ChemSec, it has not received official details of the legal action.

“We would like to inform you that ECHA hasn’t yet received any details on the case from the general court. ECHA will comment to the court on any allegations made,” it said.

Meanwhile, the French National Assembly adopted a proposal on 4 May to ban three groups of chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties – phthalates, parabens and alkylphenols.

The proposal will now be reviewed in the senate, France’s upper parliamentary house, which is scheduled to vote on the ban in the next four weeks. 

It remains to be understood how the law, if and when adopted, is consistent with EU legislation such as Reach or other chemical-related laws.

Additional reporting by Franco Capaldo

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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