Reforming Chemical Markets and Promoting Innovation: EU’s Proposed Chemicals Policy
"A new and ambitious Chemicals Policy for the EU will remain at the top of the list of Danish priorities. We need to have the same rules for existing and new chemicals. We shall reverse the burden of proof. We must enforce the principle of ‘no data, no marketing.’ It is the only way forward. And time is running short."
In February 2001, the European Commission presented a White Paper proposing an overhaul of the EU's chemical policy to address the lack of safety data on 95% of existing chemicals in commerce. This proposal was prompted by public and government concern about exposures to unregulated chemicals used in consumer products and their impact on human and environmental health. The new EU chemical policy proposal would:
- hold industry accountable for its untested chemicals;
- prevent the production and use of chemicals of very high concern (unless such uses are authorized); and
- motivate innovation towards safer products and processes.
Key Components of REACH
- REACH mandates that between 2006 and 2012, chemical producers have to register and make publicly available the latest information on health impacts for existing and new chemicals produced or used in quantities greater than one ton per year (estimated 30,000 chemicals) and strict evaluation of chemicals produced in quantities greater than one hundred tons.
- Through an authorization process, REACH requires corporations to find safer substitutes for all intrinsically hazardous chemicals, such as carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive toxins (CMRs); persistent organic pollutants (POPs); persistent bioaccumlative toxics (PBTs); and very persistent, very bioaccumulative substances (VPVB), unless their continued use can be justified using a comprehensive socioeconomic and environmental analysis. The burden of proof falls not only on the original producer but also to industrial users throughout the supply chain. It is currently estimated that 1,400 chemicals of concern will be dropped off the market under these requirements.
- REACH does not allow regulated chemicals to be put on the market unless data is provided (no data, no market).
- Industry will pay for REACH through registration fees.
- REACH is based on a precautionary approach-industry that has the burden of testing and assuring safety of all the chemicals they use. Governments can severely restrict substances based on their inherent dangers and adequate evidence of harm.
The European Commission believes that greater transparency and accountability will spur innovation and catalyze industry to aggressively seek safer substitutes. The EU White Paper goes further than any other single international initiative on chemical control, and far supersedes the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which only currently restricts twelve chemicals. It is expected that the European Union will have released legislation to achieve the goals of REACH by summer 2003.
The European Commission