UN chemical harmonisation effort could open US to REACH

25 February 2013 23:30  [Source: ICIS news]

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland (ICIS)--The UN-led effort to harmonise multinational regulation of chemicals in commerce could open a pathway for stringent EU rules to “infiltrate” US substance control laws, a top industry official said on Monday.

Bill Allmond, vice president for government and public relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said the effort to homogenise the chemical regulations of many nations could “open a way for REACH to bleed into the US chemicals regulatory system”.

REACH is the EU’s programme for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals, an approach much opposed by the US chemicals sector.

Under the UN’s “globally harmonised system of classification and labelling of chemicals”, otherwise known as GHS, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last year issued final rules to bring US regulations more in line with GHS.

Just how that will be accomplished is the focus of a special session at the annual GlobalChem conference here, a three-day event that updates international industry officials on changes in multinational chemical regulatory systems.

“There is concern that REACH could sneak into the US regulatory system under the GHS harmonisation effort,” Allmond said.

He said SOCMA is working on proposals to present an alternative approach to a REACH-like marriage of US and EU chemicals controls.

“We’ll have to come to some sort of regulatory cooperation agreement with the EU in lieu of the US adopting REACH – which obviously is not going to happen,” he said.

The task of meshing EU and US chemicals regulatory approaches will also be addressed as part of GlobalChem discussions about a potential US-EU trade agreement. 

In his State of the Union speech before Congress this month, US President Barack Obama called for a US-EU trade deal and said his administration will push for such an agreement.

That deal would be welcomed by most of US industry, but Allmond noted that a free-trade agreement between the US and EU would necessarily have to address differences between American chemical regulatory measures and REACH.

The SOCMA executive was speaking on the sidelines of the international chemical regulatory conference. The event is co-sponsored by SOCMA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and runs from Monday to Wednesday.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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