Wednesday, December 13, 2006

European Parliament Adopts REACH Compromise

Dec 13: The European Parliament (EP) adopted the compromise it negotiated with Council on the new regulation for chemicals -- the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of CHemicals (REACH) [See WIMS 12/1/06] -- which will require producers to register all chemical substances produced or imported above a total quantity of 1 tonne per year. Registration will affect about 30,000 substances. For more hazardous substances, producers will have to submit a substitution plan to replace them with safer alternatives. When no alternative exists, producers will have to present a research plan aimed at finding one. The compromise package agreed with the Council and tabled by 4 political groups was approved with 529 in favor, 98 against and 24 abstentions.

The regulation will enter into force progressively from June 2007, and the registration process will take 11 years to be completed. The calendar for registration depends on the risk of the substance and the quantity produced. All covered substances will have to be registered by 2018. REACH also creates a new Chemicals Agency, to be based in Helsinki, which will be responsible for the authorization process.

European Parliament President Josep Borrell commenting on the EP adoption of REACH said, "This vote, on one of the most complex texts in the history of the EU, sets up an essential piece of legislation to protect public health and the environment from the risks of chemical substances, without threatening European competitiveness. It offers EU citizens true protection against the multitude of toxic substances in everyday life in Europe."

The authorization process will cover about 3 000 substances considered more dangerous. The Helsinki Chemicals Agency will be responsible to authorize them and the producers will have to present either replacement proposals or research plans to develop alternatives. The authorization will be for a limited time period. The regulation transfers the burden of proof regarding testing and evaluation of the risks of chemicals from the authorities to industry. It also includes obligations of duty of care for the industry and of communication to the public about dangerous substances in products. It also includes safeguards for confidential information and provisions to avoid duplication of animal testing.

European Commission Vice-President G√ľnter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said, “I welcome the end to a long period of uncertainty which has hung over these negotiations. This compromise is good for health and environment, while keeping European businesses competitive and encouraging innovation. It is very important that the final agreement also takes into account the special situation of the SMEs. In addition, replacing over 40 legislative instruments with a one single regulation is yet another practical example of Better Regulation and cutting red tape in Europe. Another positive aspect is that every effort has been made under REACH to reduce animal testing to the absolute minimum.”

Commissioner Stavros Dimas, responsible for environmental policy said, “REACH is an extremely important piece of legislation, which will significantly improve the protection of human health and the environment. It will increase our knowledge about chemicals, enhance safety, and spur innovation while encouraging substitution of highly dangerous substances by safer ones."

European Environmental organizations issued a release saying, "Major loopholes in REACH will still allow many chemicals that can cause serious health problems, including cancer, birth defects and reproductive illnesses, to continue being used in manufacturing and consumer goods. Further concessions exempt companies which import and manufacture chemicals in volumes below 10 tonnes a year - 60% of chemicals covered by REACH - from the requirement to provide any meaningful safety data."

American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Jack Gerard issued a statement saying, “Today’s vote by the European Parliament has unfortunately failed to produce workable chemical legislation. The compromise package approved by the Parliament has not addressed many of the key concerns repeatedly expressed by industry and major EU trading partners. A more focused and flexible approach to registration, and a truly risk-based approach to authorization, could have brought our economies and regulatory systems closer together. Strong and effective chemical regulation should not have to come at the expense of global trade and competitiveness."

Access a lengthy EP release (click here). Access a release from the European Commission with links to additional information (click here). Access the EurActive website for the latest reports and links to background and documents (click here). Access the European Commission REACH website for additional information (click here). Access the European Chemical Industry Council's REACH website (click here). Access a release from European environmental groups (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). Access the Greenpeace European Unit REACH website (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort REACH links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]