Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Report On EU REACH Regs Impact On U.S. Companies

Sep 30: A new report from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), indicates that hundreds of companies located in 37 of the 50 United States produce or import hundreds of chemicals designated as dangerous by the European Union (EU). As a result, these companies will be directly affected by controls imposed under the EU's new chemicals regulation -- REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restrictions of Chemicals).

The report -- Across the Pond: Assessing REACH's First Big Impact on U.S. Companies and Chemicals -- finds that many of the hundreds of chemicals already identified as dangerous by the EU are being produced or imported in the United States in large amounts and at many different sites. The findings provide compelling evidence for the U.S. Congress to protect public health by reforming the nation's primary chemical safety law, the 32-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act.

Richard A. Denison, Ph.D., EDF Senior Scientist and author of the report said, "The fact that so many chemicals already designated as dangerous by EU officials are actively being produced and used in the United States should dispel any notion that the problem is limited to only a few 'bad actors.' Toxic chemicals grabbing recent headlines -- such as bisphenol A used in baby bottles and food cans, phthalates used in kids' toys, and flame retardants used in furniture -- are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of chemicals that demand scrutiny. This report serves as an early warning to companies making and using these dangerous chemicals that they will be at a competitive disadvantage unless they proactively seek to eliminate exposures and develop safer alternatives. Scrutiny of these chemicals is only going to grow, so chemical companies should support efforts to modernize the decades-old U.S. chemicals policy that has shielded chemicals from needed testing and appropriate control."

Last year, the EU adopted its sweeping new chemicals regulation -- Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) -- under which companies must register all chemicals they place on the EU market in amounts above one metric ton. A hallmark of REACH is its identification of so-called "substances of very high concern" (SVHCs). REACH's intent is ultimately to allow use of such SVHCs only when each use has been specifically authorized. Denison said, "REACH's requirements will fully apply to U.S. companies that make chemicals for the EU market. This report is the first to determine which companies report making SVHCs in the United States. Once these chemicals become subject to REACH's authorization requirements, these companies will need permission from EU officials to sell them in the EU."

EDF based its analysis on a list of nearly 300 SVHCs issued last week by the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), a Swedish nongovernmental organization. ChemSec dubbed its list the "SIN List," for "Substitute It Now," which reflects the group's interest in promoting safer alternatives to SVHCs wherever possible. The list represents the first effort to identify the range of chemicals expected to be subject to authorization under REACH. EDF compared the SIN List to the most recent publicly available data from the U.S. EPA that identifies which companies reported making or importing these chemicals in the United States. EDF found that many, and likely most, of the SIN List chemicals are manufactured or imported in the United States.

The EDF report also finds that: Eight states have at least a dozen SIN List chemicals: New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan; In the United States, at least 85 SIN List chemicals are produced annually in amounts of one million or more pounds, and at least 14 exceed one billion pounds annually; At least 173 companies are producing or importing SIN List chemicals in the United States; Some companies are associated with many SIN List chemicals -- as many as 21 per company; and The five companies reporting making the most SIN List chemicals are Dow, DuPont, Chemtura, Equistar and BASF.

EDF found that only about a third of the SVHCs on the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory have been tested under TSCA. Only two -- asbestos and hexavalent chromium -- have been regulated under TSCA, and EDF says "even these only under narrow conditions."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a release indicating that the EDF and ChemSec reports are creating "unnecessary confusion and public concern." ACC indicates in their release, "Barely 3 months after Europe’s comprehensive new chemical law (REACH) has gone into effect, already non-governmental public interest groups have created wish-lists and reports which distract attention from efforts to effectively implement the law, and that could undermine the law’s effectiveness."

ACC said, "The list published by ChemSec is simply one interest group’s recommendation on what chemicals should be subject to use-specific authorization under REACH. The list is not a formal element of the European Union’s REACH program, and could create serious confusion for chemical manufacturers, distributors and their customers throughout the value chain. Under REACH, it is the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) responsibility to propose chemicals for authorization and, to date, ECHA has proposed an initial list of 16 substances using the procedures set out under the law.

"The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has issued a new report on impacts from REACH in the U.S., based on the ChemSec 'wish list.' In ACC’s view, the EDF report compounds the potential for confusion in chemical value chains. Further, it implies that there are unregulated exposures to the listed chemicals, and creates the potential for unwarranted public concern. . . "

Access a release from EDF (
click here). Access links to the complete 24-page report, summary and data tables (click here). Access the Chemical Secretariat "SIN List" (click here). Access a release from ACC and link to additional information (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort REACH Program links (click here). Access various WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog posts on REACH issues (click here). [*Toxics]