Thursday, October 6, 2011

ECHA Issues 2012 Work Program - Sees Challenges Ahead

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) approved its 2012 work program last week and highlighted both its activities and its challenges ahead of the next REACH deadline.  Besides the mid 2013 REACH registration deadline, ECHA will take on an expanding role in the new Biocidal Products Regulation (which will replace the current Directive in 2013). In addition, ECHA will have ramped up activities related to other parts of the expansive REACH regulation, including the Evaluation (the "E") and Authorization (the "A") components, as well as Restrictions (the "missing R").  And of course there is still the continuing evaluation of substance dossiers for high productive volume chemicals submitted in the first registration period that ended on November 30, 2010.

All of this leaves ECHA worried that there may not be enough resources to meet obligations efficiently, both within ECHA and in the Member States.  The current economic situation in most of Europe, which has caused such severe spending cuts (austerity), has led ECHA Executive Director Geert Dancet to openly state his concerns that Member States may not have enough resources to fully conduct their role in chemical evaluation.

The developing Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) also offers challenges to ECHA as the agency is expected to take on responsibility for authorizing biocides.  Under the current biocides directive this responsibility lies with each Member State.  ECHA would also take on new responsibilities related to the Prior Informed Consent Regulation, which involves identifying hazardous chemicals that could not be exported from Europe unless the country of destination is given sufficient information to assess risk.

During the September 29-30, 2011 meeting of the management board, the mandate of the Executive Director was extended.  According to the chairman, Dr. Thomas Jakl:
"After the first REACH registration deadline was impressively managed by ECHA in 2010, there is no time to rest on our laurels. Challenging further steps of the REACH and CLP implementation lie ahead and the legislator is in the process of entrusting important new regulatory tasks to the Agency. The continuation decision with regard to a selection process for the Executive Director reflects the high satisfaction of the Board with his achievements since 2007."

More information and a link to the work program can be found on the ECHA web site.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Summary of GHS Chemical Classification in Various Regions Now Available

The UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (usually referred to as simply GHS) was a way for governments to voluntarily attempt to bring into harmony what had been a wide range of classification schemes for chemicals.  Now the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has created a summary table that brings together in one place the current status of individual government's and region's adoption of GHS.

The table can be seen here and shows which OECD member countries and other organisations have publicly posted their GHS classifications no the internet.  The table is based on a survey performed in 2011.  Where available, OECD has provided links to the appropriate documents and web access points (e.g., to the 1300+ page CLP in Europe).  Other links take you to web sites, for example, Korea's New Chemical Notification and Assessment.

The Fourth Revised Edition of the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (the "Purple Book") can be downloaded on the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) site.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Is TSCA Reform Happening this Fall?

The short answer is, probably not.  But it does appear that Senator Frank Lautenberg's office will be pushing for a markup this fall of the draft bill introduced this past spring.  Lautenberg's "Safe Chemicals Act of 2011" included many industry-friendly changes from the original "Kid Safe Chemical Act" (including no longer mentioning kids in the name).  The bill introduced in April would have required companies to submit "basic hazard and exposure data to quickly determine the risk and assess the need for further testing or restrictions."

Over the summer the staffs of Senators Lautenberg and Inhofe held a series of stakeholder meetings in an effort to find common ground and a path forward.  These meetings included - separately - representatives from NGOs (e.g., Environmental Defense Fund) and industry (e.g., ACC and SOCMA).  Topics for the meetings included defining a "safety standard" and coming up with prioritization schemes that would focus efforts on those chemicals deemed most risky.  In August, EPA proposed such a prioritization scheme, which was countered by an alternative scheme by the American Chemistry Council.

Whether the markup happens or not will depend on the legislative calendar, but historically anything that doesn't get done by this fall will likely not get done during the 2012 election year.  With the initial changes Lautenberg already made and the Democrats' willingness to compromise the grand reform of TSCA for a more industry-friendly reform, the feedback from the stakeholder meetings suggest that any markup will further limit the extent of "modernization" of the 35-year old chemicals law.  Whether you believe that is a good thing or a bad thing may depend on from what perspective you bring to the table.