REACH JAMA welcomes further discussions
In October 2003, after a close consultation with all interested parties, the European Commission presented a proposal to merge and modernize EU legislation on chemicals. The Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) proposal aims to protect human health and the environment by giving industry, including both manufacturers and downstream users, greater responsibility for managing the risks from chemicals and providing safety information on these substances. The main element of REACH would be the registration of chemicals manufactured or imported in quantities greater than one tonne per year. A specially-established European Chemicals agency would manage the chemicals database, as well as administering any further evaluations and authorizations, should these be necessary. Authorization would be required for the application of toxic substances which accumulate in the body or in the environment, as well as carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, and endocrine disruptors.
The Commission is currently completing an additional impact assessment of the REACH proposal, on the request of Member States. Specific studies on industrial cost/benefit, how the burden would fall in different industry sectors, and possible new training requirements, as well as the impact on SMEs, downstream users, employment, and investment have been called for. The Commission hopes to have a final report ready by the end of the year. In addition, Member States themselves are working on national impact assessments to be integrated into the larger Commission report.
Led by the Environment Committee in close cooperation with the Industry Committee, the European Parliament began preliminary work on the proposal in spring; this work had to be terminated due to the June parliamentary elections, but is expected to continue in September with a committee vote on the first reading in March 2005 and a plenary vote in the second quarter of 2005.
Overall, the final adoption of the REACH proposal is expected in 2006.
For JAMA, as for a number of downstream users of chemicals, the central issue in the REACH proposal is the balance of responsibility between the manufacturer and the downstream user of chemicals. The automobile industry is a perfect example of a case where a producer cannot control or be responsible for chemicals in their product throughout this product’s life car producers can do no more than comply with the information and safety instructions provided for by the manufacturer of chemical-containing parts. Therefore, JAMA believes that more responsibility should lie with the primary manufacturer of chemicals and less with the downstream user.
JAMA is also concerned about the heavy burden that the registration of risk assessment data will place on exporters of products containing chemicals produced outside the EU. Automakers use globally-produced parts in their cars and change their suppliers frequently. The current REACH proposal would place JAMA’s members at a disadvantage in that they would either have to register a chemical every time that they change parts suppliers or restrict their suppliers to those who only use chemicals registered in the EU.
Finally, as an association of global exporters, JAMA would welcome any efforts at international harmonization of regulations, in particular discussions at WTO level and coordination with chemical regulations being considered by the OECD, UN, and other forums.