INSIGHT: Chemicals control expected to tighten globally in 2014

15 January 2014 17:18 Source:ICIS News

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS)--The regulatory grip on the chemical industry will tighten worldwide in 2014 as nations and states continue to implement chemicals control legislation.

The burden of costs in some jurisdictions might prove too high for some, with suggestions that small to medium sized players will begin to feel the heat and might prefer to withdraw from certain markets.

In Europe, the Reach regulatory system has moved through its first two registration phases and stricter regulation of some high risk substances is on the cards.

Chemical producers and users last year came to better understand the cost and time burdens of Reach. It is expected that more SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) will be gearing up in 2014 for a 2018 Reach registration deadline so as to spread the pressure as low-tonnage products are swept up by the rules.

In the US, while attempts to publish a nationwide chemicals of concern (COC) list have failed, California has enacted consumer products legislation which has a direct impact on chemical producers.

The new administration in China is expected to support tougher environmental controls, particularly as poor air quality grabs news headlines. A list of hazardous substances was circulated last year and is likely to be published in final form in 2014.

South Korea last year enacted what has become known as Korea Reach or K-Reach. It will come into force in just under a year so further clarification of the regulation is expected in 2014 alongside the publication of guidance documents. Chemicals control legislation is also being implemented in Taiwan.

“2014 will prove to be a busy year for chemical control law modifications in Taiwan and South Korea,” legal and regulatory affairs firm Bergeson & Campbell said in a briefing paper published earlier this month.

It outlined in some detail how the chemicals regulatory environment is likely to evolve globally over the course of the year.

In the US, the decades old but still trustworthy Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) will continue to be used in 2014 to assess and regulate chemicals.

“EPA's initial effort to implement a list of COCs under Section 5(b) (4) [of TSCA] was scuttled in 2013 and does not appear to be on the radar screen for 2014,” Bergeson & Campbell says.

“This may in part be due to industry opposition to the creation of the list, which many feared would immediately identify chemicals to be deselected, resulting in commercial disruption and enhanced tort liability.”

Shifts in the control environment are also unlikely given continued federal budget cuts.

“Even the simple ability to process approvals or conduct public meetings about non-controversial matters have become more difficult,” Bergeson & Campbell adds.

In California, however, things are slightly different.

Implementation of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Safer Consumer Products regulations (SCP) begins this year.

The regulation puts responsibility for the control of hazardous chemicals in consumer products largely on manufacturers – although also on importers, retailers and others.

A Candidate Chemicals list of about 1,200 chemicals has been drawn up but about 164 substances will be considered in detail before 1 January 2016.

Certain chemicals from the list will be prioritised and a Priority Product list published later this year. So-called Alternative Analyses for these chemicals must be conducted.

“A Candidate Chemical that is the basis for a product being listed as a Priority Product is designated as a Chemical of Concern (COC) for that product and any alternative considered or selected to replace that product,” the DTSC says.

“While there are indications that these Regulations may be litigated in the New Year, relying on a favourable outcome and doing nothing now is unwise,” Bergeson & Campbell says.

“Companies doing business in California should instead be reviewing the chemical lists, determining if any of its consumer products contain one of those substances, reviewing and commenting on DTSC guidance (when available), identifying other entities similarly affected, and determining the ability to consolidate efforts (e.g., through a consortium) in conducting an AA.”

One aspect of hazardous chemicals control that the Reach process in the EU has identified is the lack of communication down often long chemical supply chains and gaps in understanding of exposure to some chemicals in certain applications. The European Chemicals Agency will try to address these gaps in 2014 in workshops and publications.

Some substances have moved into the authorisation phase of Reach where exemptions for use in certain applications have been sought.

ECHA committees have recommended, for instance, that Rolls Royce can continue using the phthalate plasticizer DEHP when it makes aero engine fan blades.

This application for authorisation of the use of a substance of very high concern (SVHC) in manufacturing is the first to be recommended for approval, or authorisation, under Reach. The European Commission will make the final approval decision.

The ECHA says that in 2013 it received eight applications for authorisation to use SVHCs “covering two different phthalates and 17 different specific uses. In 2014, the Agency expects approximately twice that number of applications, in particular for chromium-containing substances and the solvent trichloroethylene”.

More generally, the EU is moving to enforce the Reach process more closely beginning in 2015. As Bergeson & Campbell notes, “the enforcement programme will focus on authorisation and substances placed on the EU market illegally”

By Nigel Davis