Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Set of Chemical Substances Ready to be Phased Out (aka banned) by Europe's REACH

The first six chemical substances to be given the hangman's noose, er, put on the REACH authorization list, have been announced by the European Commission.  These "substances of very high concern" had been put onto a "candidate list" for comment, but as of today have been moved to the authorisation list itself, which is known as Annex XIV under Europe's REACH regulation

The six substances are:
  • musk xylene
  • MDA
  • DEHP
  • BBP
  • DBP
[Okay, I realize the short forms and initials won't be recognizable to some; you can see full names in the press release here.]

Now that these six are in Annex XIV they "cannot be placed on the market or used unless authorisation has been granted for a specific use."  Obviously they are already on the market so for each substance there is a "sunset date" after which they can no longer be manufactured or imported in Europe unless an authorization application is filed and accepted.  Sunset dates for these six chemicals are in 2014 or 2015.  So manufacturers need to be developing an authorization application, which must include substantial health and safety data, information on the uses, a socioeconomic analysis to demonstrate why the societal benefit for keeping them on the market, and the specific uses that will be supported.  Only those uses that are deemed to be of sufficient need and can be controlled will be approved for continued use, and then only for a specified time frame (e.g., 5 years) to allow development of alternatives.

And the company applying for the authorization is responsible for identifying an alternative or providing a plan for how they will develop one.  Of course, competing companies may already have alternatives that can easily slip into the void but that couldn't compete with the usually lower cost, but more hazardous, chemical that already dominated market share.

Keep in mind that these are just the first six chemicals to be put on Annex XIV.  There are many more already on the candidate list, with more to be added periodically.  Manufacturers of chemicals that are "substances of very high concern" should be working to either find alternatives or to argue why they should not be put on the authorization (i.e., to be banned) list.

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