« Top official says ‘protect’ it from TTIP, improve dossier quality.
The environment ministry of Europe’s biggest member state has spelled out its priorities for protecting the achievements of REACH, and improving its implementation.
Speaking at yesterday’s conference in Brussels on the future of REACH, organised by nine European countries, Alexander Nies, deputy general of Germany’s federal environment ministry (BMUB), said European governments must “protect” the hazard-based elements of REACH, and its placing of the burden of proof of chemical safety on industry, from TTIP, the current EU-US talks on a new trade agreement.
His comments were echoed by Monique Goyens, head of European consumers group Beuc, who described TTIP and the European Commission’s Better Regulation programme as a “toxic cocktail” that threatens to “further delay regulation on chemicals in Europe”.
In contrast, Cefic director general Hubert Mandery called for increased cooperation with the US on chemicals, through the TTIP talks.
The BMUB is also concerned about the quality of registration dossiers, said Mr Nies, especially for endpoints such as reproductive and developmental toxicity. “Standard animal testing is the exception. But the alternative information provided is insufficient, in many cases, for most high tonnage substances,” he said.
Echa must “intensify” its dossier compliance checks and target the most important endpoints. It must also “communicate more clearly the extent to which animal testing is indispensable”, even though “this is an uncomfortable message – industry doesn’t like it, and the animal welfare NGOs certainly don’t like it.”
On authorisation, Mr Nies said that although the process was broadly working, discussion of possible changes was needed. The weighing of the economic benefits and risks of a particular use of a substance, he said, is a political task, not a scientific one, and is, therefore, not a task for Echa.
As well as registration dossier quality, a number of common themes were raised by most of the conference speakers. These included how to: help the substitution of SVHCs; weigh the need to increase material recycling against the need to restrict SVHCs and other hazardous substances; move forward on nanomaterials and endocrine disruptors; and make REACH work better for SMEs and downstream users.
An issue mentioned by competent authorities, industry and NGOs was the need to remove the competitive disadvantage faced by companies in Europe, regarding banned substances in articles. The problem is twofold: imported articles, containing restricted substances, are still appearing on the EU market; and the phase out of Annex XIV substances does not apply to imported articles.
Germany’s Environmental Protection Agency (UBA) says it would be legally possible for the EU to extend the applicability of Annex XIV to imported articles, without infringing free trade law. »