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Oct. 28 — The European Commission kick-started a major review of the European Union’s main chemical safety law Oct. 28 by publishing a 43-page questionnaire and asking for public feedback through Jan. 28, 2017, on the strengths and shortcomings of the legislation.
The commission, the EU’s executive arm, is required to review the regulation, known as REACH, every five years. The last review, published belatedly in 2013, concluded that no major changes were required to REACH, which the EU adopted in 2006.
The commission is required by REACH to deliver the next review by June 1, 2017. The commission said the aim of the consultation is to “identify needs for adjustment and to propose recommendations to improve the implementation” of REACH (Regulation No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals).
Under REACH, companies must safety-assess the chemicals they manufacture in, or import into, the EU and file registration dossiers with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The most hazardous chemicals can be made subject to phaseout orders or otherwise restricted.
The commission said it will combine the five-year reviews of REACH with a regulatory fitness and performance (REFIT) evaluation of the law. The commission introduced REFIT assessments to determine if EU legislation is meeting its objectives at the minimum cost.
According to the questionnaire on the review of REACH, responses will inform the commission’s “general approach” to the REFIT assessment and should provide information on the “strengths and weaknesses” of REACH, along with “any potentially missing elements.”
Issues the questionnaire covers include whether REACH is succeeding in improving consumer, worker and environmental protection; whether it is an effective framework for providing information on chemicals; if the legal text is sufficiently clear on REACH processes; and whether REACH has had unintended effects.
The questionnaire also asks about the effectiveness of ECHA, whether REACH can be made less burdensome, and whether it is effective in dealing with emerging issues such as nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors or the combination effects of chemicals.
Peter Pierrou, communications manager of the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), which campaigns for the phaseout of toxic substances, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 28 that “instead of opening up REACH, which we fear would be done in order to weaken the best parts of it, we think the commission should consider introducing a number of improvements.”
Among steps that should be taken according to ChemSec are systematic rejection of REACH registration dossiers that contain incomplete or poor-quality information and speeding the process to list hazardous chemicals as “substances of very high concern,” a designation that means they could ultimately be banned from use in the EU.
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The consultation on REACH is available http://src.bna.com/jIt.
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