Chemicals in the European Union, beyond 2020

Bjorn Hansen HCF 2018 editedThe executive director of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Bjorn Hansen, spoke at two key conferences in Helsinki this week and provided participants with an update on the agency’s activities and chemicals regulations. He was keynote speaker both at the ECHA Conference on May 22, and the Helsinki Chemicals Conference (HCF) the following day.

At this year’s ECHA Conference, subtitled Safer Chemicals, he outlined new tasks and priorities facing the organization. These tasks are the agency’s priorities from now until 2023, and include developing a portal for notifications of hazardous mixtures to national poison centres (CLP); a focus on occupations exposure limits (DELs) as well as persistent organic pollutants (POPs); developing a database to track chemicals of concern (waste framework directive) and the EU chemicals legislation FINDER; and the EU Nano Observatory website which collects existing information from databases, registries and studies and generates new data through additional studies and surveys on nanomaterials on the EU market.

At the HCF conference on May 23, Hansen provided an update on REACH/CLP regulations. He commented that the interface is running better and better, and the classification of pesticides, biocides and pthalates is going well. More harmonization with other legislation and sister agencies is a high priority.

The REACH regulations were implemented by the European Union in 2007, and govern the production and use of chemical substances in the EU, putting the burden of proof on companies that manufacture or use the substances. REACH establishes procedures for collecting and assessing information on the properties and hazards of substances.

Companies must register their substances and can work together with other companies who are registering the same substance. ECHA receives and evaluates individual registrations, and the EU member states evaluate selected substances to identify any concerns for human health or for the environment. Authorities and ECHA’s scientific committees then assess whether the risks of substances can be managed.

Authorities can ban hazardous substances if their risks are unmanageable. They can also decide to restrict a use or make it subject to a prior authorization.

To date, 14,000 companies have registered substances, while 94,000 registration dossiers have been opened with 22,000 substances registered. A total of 197 substances have been placed on the substances of very high concern (SVHC) list, 43 on the authorization list and 69 restrictions have been issued on substances or groups.

Reported by Leslie Burt, Chemical Matters

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