OECD Assessment of High-Volume Chemical Hazards to End as National Priorities Change

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By Rick Mitchell  


PARIS--An international program that has generated more than 1,000 hazard assessments of high-production-volume chemicals since the 1990s will be replaced by the end of 2014 because its participating countries have decided it no longer fits their priorities, the head of the program told BNA June 21.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Cooperative Chemicals Assessment Program (CoCAP) has since the 1990s been the world's only source of internationally agreed hazard assessments for chemicals produced in large amounts, according to Bob Diderich, head of OECD's Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Division.

Diderich told BNA in May that the program's functions had largely been taken over by the European Union's REACH program and by U.S.-based research activities (37 CRR 571, 5/13/13).

At a June 11-13 joint meeting, OECD's Chemicals Committee and the Working Party on Chemicals, Pesticides, and Biotechnology decided that recent legislative changes in many OECD countries mean “there is less value in [the CoCAP's] cooperative work for assessing as many chemicals as possible.”

“The CoCAP as we know it will no longer exist as of the end of next year,” Diderich said.

The OECD official said the committee and working party decided the organization should develop a new program that focuses on proving or trying out new test methods on real cases. “It will be more case-study-oriented than actually assessing as many chemicals as possible,” he said.

The OECD Task Force on Hazard Assessment will begin “brainstorming” to develop the new program at a June 25-26 meeting. The Chemicals Committee and Working Party on Chemicals, Pesticides, and Biotechnology will decide on details and a name for the new program at their next joint meeting in February 2014, he said.

New Focus on Methodologies

Established in 1991, the OECD High Production Volume (HPV) Chemicals Program, which eventually became the CoCAP, focuses on assessing substances produced in volumes of 1,000 metric tons or more per year in any OECD country.

The program, later reshaped as a partnership with industry, publishes detailed assessments in the OECD Existing Chemicals Database. They can also be published on country websites and by the United Nations Environment Program.

Prior to the joint meeting, EU and U.S. industry and government officials suggested the CoCAP had outlived its usefulness, in large part because the European Union's REACH regime (Regulation No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals) has usurped CoCAP's role in Europe, but also due to changes in chemical hazard assessment in the United States and elsewhere.

Diderich said that, with thousands of chemicals yet to be assessed for hazards, the CoCAP program still fills a role that no one else fills.

With CoCAP gone, “countries will have to step up their efforts [on chemical safety] and industry has to step up their efforts to provide these assessments to countries,” he said.

CoCAP to Last at Least Through 2013

The new program will look at novel methods for assessing chemical hazards. “The idea is to use new methods for testing and for predicting properties of chemicals, but somehow keep the advantage of assessing real cases and real chemicals,” Diderich said.

“The objective is to make sure that whatever we develop and whatever we propose in terms of new methodologies actually works on real cases,” he said.

He said the current CoCAP program will continue through 2013 and probably at least partially into next year, “to make sure that everything in the pipeline is completed. So we probably have until the end of the year to define the new program and start setting it up.”

The June 25-26 task force meeting will start considering what testing methods and types of case studies countries are interested in trying out. It will take stock of what countries want to commit to and contribute to the future program.

“That's where we are today,” said Diderich.


More information on the OECD Cooperative Chemicals Assessment Program is available at http://tinyurl.com/bpsx8u9.

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