Monday, March 15, 2010

European NGOs Press the European Commission for Action on PBTs, Candidate List and Authorization for REACH

A group of NGOs have written to the European Commission in an attempt to prod them for progress on three key issues under the REACH regulation that they believe are not moving quickly enough. According to one of the NGOs, ChemSec:

The main issues of concern include the Commission proposal on the criteria for the inclusion of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic ((PBT) chemicals, the lack of progress on the REACH Candidate List and the delay in starting the Authorisation process.

The letter was addressed to Antonio Tajani and Janez Potocnik, respectively new EU Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship and new EU Commissioner for the Environment. On March 25, 2010 the two Commissioners will visit the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki, and the goal of the letter was to "express concern regarding the delayed progress of REACH implementation."

Related to the concerns about the decision on the PBT criteria (REACH Annex XIII), the groups "refer to our detailed letter to the Commission on this issue from 5 December 2008" and conclude that "the Commission has so far ignored expert advice from Member States, scientists and NGOs to ensure that all relevant information is considered in the PBT/vPvB identification." The NGOs believe that "the Commission’s proposal from 2008 does nothing to change the criteria," and thus "fail to address the problem of increasing contamination of people and wildlife with persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals."

The NGOs also "deplore the lack of progress on the REACH candidate list," which "more than two years after entry into force," "only contains 29 officially recognised substances of very high concern compared to 478 substances identified by a group of Member States as meeting the official REACH criteria and the 356 substances on the NGO SIN List 1.1 (“Substitute it Now!)”. The NGOs urge the Commission and ECHA to "dedicate more resources to speed up the substitution of substances of very high concern, including hormone disrupting substances."

Finally, they believe that there has been undue delay in starting the authorisation procedure. They remind the Commission that it "has not taken action on the seven prioritised substances of very high concern recommended by ECHA" back in June 2009. The NGO's say that this is "simply unacceptable."

Whether the letter will influence speedier action will remain to be seen. ECHA and the Commission have been quite busy dealing with the registration process (the "R" in REACH) while continuing to try to build up the staff in Helsinki. Clearly there is a lot on the Commission's, and certainly on ECHA's, respective plates. Which perhaps gives all the more importance to NGOs and other organizations pressing for forward movement.

The signators of the letter were from WWF European Policy Office, Centre for International Environmental Law, ChemSec, CHEMTrust, European Environmental Bureau, Greenpeace, Health & Environment Alliance and Women in Europe for a Common Future. The full letter can be read here.

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