EU governments set to defy industry on Reach

EU governments look set to reject industry demands to water down the substance registration procedure in the Reach chemicals reform.

Draft legislation circulated by the UK presidency is the first attempt to draw up a revised legal text since Reach was tabled by the European Commission almost two years ago (ED 29/10/05).

Led by trade association Cefic, and with significant support from the European parliament, the chemicals industry has been calling for a screening mechanism that would exempt from registration chemicals unlikely to prove harmful enough to need restrictions.

The UK draft does not take up the idea. On the other hand it does provide the first direct confirmation that the "one-substance one-registration" plan to reduce substance testing (Osor) is likely to be incorporated into the regulation.

The paper was presented to governments last month. The UK insists it is not a formal compromise proposal, but the document is written as a detailed legal text and covers all Reach's major elements: the regulation's scope, registration, evaluation and authorisation procedures, plus data sharing rules.

Officials have asked member states for comments by 1 September. The presidency will circulate a new text before talks resume at junior diplomatic level on 18 September.

Among key points in the UK document:

  • tighter rules for substances in articles: where substances are intended to be released, importers and manufacturers would have to register a substance if it occurs in volumes above one tonne.
    This threshold applies to entire product output rather than to individual product types.
    Rules for articles where substance release not foreseen also tightened.
  • clear rules for "multiple registration" of substances and data sharing: firms would be obliged to submit some registration requirements jointly, and they would have to share animal and non-animal testing data.
    But there would be a mechanism allowing them to express disagreement over safety assessments.
  • the registration deadline for all PBTs and vPvBs (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances and very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances) would be three years, irrespective of production volume.
    There would be lighter registration requirements for substances in the 1-10 tonne volume band.
  • responsibility for checking registration dossiers would move to the future EU chemicals agency; member state authorities would perform substance evaluations and draft decisions to authorise or restrict individual chemicals.
  • the use of higher-risk substances would be authorised if manufacturers show the risks can be "adequately controlled". But all authorisations to use a substance would be reviewed whenever one manufacturer submitted a plan to switch to safer alternatives.

    Reprinted with permission of Environment Daily

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