INSIGHT: Industry partnerships to advance chems safety management

19 September 2012 15:43  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS)--The EU’s chemicals policy, Reach, has set the tone but chemical producers globally are committed to provide publicly available safety information on all chemicals in commerce by 2018.

The industry’s GPS Chemical Information Portal is a significant undertaking which provides direct links to the safety information companies have on the chemicals they sell.

The chemical information portal has been built on the industry’s long-standing high production volume chemicals initiative (HPV) and its long-range research initiative (LRI).

The former was established with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 1998 while the latter is designed to publicise industry-wide research on the science and technology that underpins chemicals toxicology and exposure.

The second registration deadline for Reach – for substances sold in the EU in volumes greater than 100 tonnes – is next year and the list that identifies the most toxic substances used in the EU is growing. Chemicals on the list have, at some stage, to be authorised for use in the EU.

Not every country or region wants to adopt a Reach-style approach to chemicals control but the better management of chemicals and our exposure to them continues to be widely discussed at the national and international level.

Chemical producers will have their own feelers out because they need to be aware of what might lie around the corner as legislation is formulated. Global intelligence is essential for businesses that rely on global markets.

The third international conference on chemicals management, ICCM3, is being held in Nairobi, Kenya, this week. And on Wednesday, chemical producers through their International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) trade group, have the opportunity to talk about work the industry is doing to improve chemicals safety and environmental impact management.

“Today, the chemical industry faces the task of driving innovation in order to develop new products and applications that solve world problems and enable a more sustainable future, while also ensuring the safety and protection of human health and the environment,” ICCA Council Secretary and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, Cal Dooley, said this week.

The ICCM3 meeting is being held to discuss the progress that has been made since the mid-2000s on the United Nations’ global Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, or SAICM.

“SAICM provides the innovative framework necessary to meet this challenge and promote the safe handling of chemicals globally,” Dooley said.

“Through our voluntary initiatives such as the Responsible Care Global Charter and the Global Product Strategy, ICCA stands ready to work with world leaders to strengthen SAICM,” he added.

It is never easy to get a group of companies, let alone regional or national trade associations to agree on a common approach or policy. But chemicals health and safety looms so large as an issue for producers and handlers of chemicals that the voluntary schemes the industry has developed since the late 1980s – Responsible Care was launched in Canada in 1985 – have become flagship initiatives.

Chemical producers have to deal competently and safely with the hazards associated with the chemicals they make and use. They are the ones who can best help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and nation states deal effectively with chemicals management at all levels.

Through the ICCA, companies have supported SAICM initiatives to help SMEs in developing countries make the most of GPS. They have worked to establish international best practices to assess the safety of chemicals used in commerce. The ICCA has, with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), developed and promoted chemicals management regimens worldwide.

It has been working with other agencies to help prevent human exposures to toxic chemicals from legacy contamination.

Dooley says that the industry is “working to improve chemicals management at all levels”.

The ICCA event at ICCM3 is designed to showcase some of the work the industry has done on chemicals safety management and the chemicals safety partnerships that have allowed progress to be made.

Unfortunately, chemicals safety assessments can sometimes take what seem like ages to complete. Agreements on stricter control of substances are reached only after years of debate. The market, on the other hand, moves much more rapidly, and chemicals can be dismissed for use in certain applications based on scare stories and conflicting evidence.

The industry, however, has been challenged to be more forthcoming with the vast amount of health and safety data it has on chemicals and it has responded. The HPV programme, for instance has provided information, available to the public, on thousands of chemicals.

The ICCM3 meeting will lay the groundwork for initiatives to come.


By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214



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