Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two Ways to Reset Your Inventory - REACH vs Safe Chemicals Act

As various stakeholders hold their stakes, i.e., hold out as long as they can for their positions on either end of the political and regulatory spectrum, the discussions go on as to whether the new Safe Chemicals Act (SCA) bill is "just like REACH." One aspect that we can look at is how each of these regulations, the one already in force in Europe and the one proposed and possibly not even passing in the US, handles the problem of tens of thousands of existing chemicals grandfathered onto an Inventory.

First it was TSCA, and not having the faintest idea how to handle about 63,000 chemicals already in commerce, the law simply put them on a list and said "we'll get to them in time." Then came the Dangerous Substances Directive in Europe, and faced with the same dilemma, they created the EINECS Inventory.

And now there is REACH. To deal with the existing chemicals (and the "new" ones added since then), REACH created the "pre-registration" of chemicals. Only chemicals that companies pre-registered could be considered "existing" for purposes of gaining some phase-in time to produce the required data sets. Anything not pre-registered becomes a "new" chemical and must have the data set provided before being placed on the market (and if you were on the market already and didn't pre-register, then you're in violation and must stop production until you provide the data). When all is said and done only those chemicals with complete data sets will gain the status of "existing."

So what does the SCA do about those existing chemicals? Well, they make you provide a "declaration" that you are manufacturing or processing specific chemicals. And you have one year to do so (with updates every three years or immediately when obtaining new toxicity information). Sounds a lot like the REACH pre-registration, doesn't it? Well, almost. Under REACH you only have to provide some basic information like name and ID of the chemical, where and who you are, and how much you manufacture or import. But the SCA would go much further. Besides that information you would also have to provide all the available health and safety data on the chemical and use patterns. And you have to certify that the information is not only true, but reliable. That's a lot of work up front.

But it actually is good in a way. The data to be provided isn't going to be a full data set (as defined by EPA). It's going to be whatever you have in your file drawer and/or have readily available. There is an incentive to do this up front because then you can show that your chemical is one that shouldn't be of much concern, which means EPA won't be likely to put it on their priority list of 300 chemicals. At least not the first version. Of course, if your chemical has some special concerns then the data may cause the chemical to rise to the top of the priority list. Which is exactly what the priority list should be all about.

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