Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Environmental Groups Sue ECHA for Refusing to Release Names of Chemical Manufacturers

Two European environmental groups have sued the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for refusing to release the names of chemical manufacturers and importers of some of the most hazardous chemicals in the EU.  The lawsuit claims "several violations of European laws designed to promote transparency, democracy, and legitimacy in EU policy-making."  ChemSec, a Swedish-based NGO, was joined by environmental law organization ClientEarth in filing the suit.

The chemicals in question are the 356 chemicals on ChemSec's "SIN (Substitute it Now!) list."

The list comprises chemicals identified as Substances of Very High Concern under the EU chemicals regulation REACH. These are chemicals that can cause cancer, damage our reproductive system, or alter our DNA, as well as toxic substances that accumulate in nature with serious and long-term irreversible effects.

Last week I reported that ChemSec had added 22 chemicals to their SIN list based on their potential endocrine disruption effects.  Under the EU chemical control law, REACH, ECHA is required to give special attention to these "substances of very high concern." In their lawsuit, ChemSec and ClientEarth argue that:

ECHA has a track record of being slow to disclose information about chemicals; pressure from the chemicals industry has so far been successful in making delays characteristic of the Agency's approach, despite this policy's clear contravention of REACH and EU principles established for almost 20 years.
According to Vito Buonsante, toxics lawyer at ClientEarth: 

The public’s right to information on chemicals is a basic principle of the REACH Regulation. ECHA must not be allowed to withhold information on such a critical issue, especially as it relates to chemicals found in consumer products and present in the EU in large quantities. We have exhausted all avenues to make ECHA meet its transparency obligations and are now compelled to go to court.

More information on the lawsuit can be found on the ChemSec and ClientEarth web pages.

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